NIT Breakdown in the SEC: Arkansas and Missouri Open With Home Games

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on March 18th, 2014

It might not be Super Tuesday, but flip over to ESPN and ESPN2 tonight and you will find two SEC teams in action. Arkansas and Missouri both kick off their respective NIT campaigns with home games against teams from smaller conferences. Here’s all you need to know about Indiana State and Davidson ahead of this evening’s alternative March fun:

Indiana State at Arkansas, 9 PM ET, ESPN

Senior Jake Odum will be tasked with breaking the Arkansas press.

Senior Jake Odum will be tasked with breaking the Arkansas press. (Getty)

  • Indiana State’s Story: Last we saw the Sycamores, they had pulled within five points (55-50) of Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game. Getting that automatic bid was their only chance ending up in the NCAA Tournament, so the Shockers’ late surge (they won 83-69) sent Indiana State to the NIT. The Sycamores, however, were pretty clearly the second best team in the MVC, and the only realistic challenge to Wichita State. They picked up a win at then #21 Notre Dame in mid-November, which didn’t hold up given the Irish’s slide (they finished 15-17). Indiana State avoided a bad loss in its non-conference slate, losing only to Belmont and tournament teams Tulsa and Saint Louis. Unfortunately for the Sycamores, their resume simply lacked quality wins, and while they went 12-6 in the MVC, the down-nature of the conference outside of Wichita State doomed them. Read the rest of this entry »
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O26 Superlatives, Part II: CAA, C-USA, MAC, MEAC, MVC, SoCon, Summit & WCC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014

In Part II of our three-part series, we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from eight different O26 conferences: CAA, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, SoCon, Summit and WCC. In alphabetical order:

Colonial Athletic Association

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

  • Team of the Year – Delaware (22-9, 14-2). Not even early- and late-season suspensions of two of Delaware’s best players could stop the Blue Hens’ run to a CAA regular season title. Monte Ross’ up-tempo club raced off to an 11-0 start in conference play, amassing a large enough lead that preseason favorite Towson was never able to catch up.
  • Player of the Year – Jerelle Benimon – Towson. You want beastly numbers? How about these: In 32 games, the 6’8’’ Benimon averaged 18.9 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, recorded an NCAA-best 20 double-doubles and reached the free throw line 258 times, good for sixth in the country.
  • Coach of the Year – Monté Ross – Delaware. Ross found a way to keep things together, to keep winning after guard Devon Saddler – the team’s leading scorer – missed seven games due to suspension early in the season and Jarvis Threatt – the team’s third-leading scorer – was suspended for the entire month of February.
  • Upset of the Year – Northeastern over Georgetown, 63-56. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, miles from Boston or Washington D.C., Scott Eatherton and the Huskies pounded Georgetown in the paint and pulled off an unexpected upset. Alas, it was another full month before Bill Coen’s bunch wound up back in the win column.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Johnathan Burroughs-Cook – College of Charleston. Burroughs-Cook cares not that you are D-II school or that he is playing in a preseason game—he will still annihilate your attempt to draw a charge.

Conference USA

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Conference Tournament Primer: Southern Conference

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 7th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week-plus of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the CAA and SoCon get started.

Dates: March 7-10
Site: Asheville Civic Center (Asheville, N.C.)

2014 socon bracket

What to expect: The Davidson Wildcats are looking for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Remember that these Wildcats blew a six-point lead in the final 70 seconds against Marquette last season in the first round of the Big Dance. Davidson ran through the SoCon with a 15-1 mark this year, leading the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. For the kings of the Southern Conference, it’s Davidson’s automatic bid to lose in its final season before moving to the Atlantic 10 next year.

Favorite: Davidson. The Wildcats started out the season 4-10, falling to teams like Duke, Virginia and Wichita State along the way. Then league play began and Davidson ran roughshod over the rest of the conference like it always seems to do. The Wildcats have won 12 straight games, with only one of those coming by single digits.

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O26 Game of the Week: Saint Louis-VCU Pt. II, Iona-Manhattan & More…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 27th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Saint Louis (25-2) at Virginia Commonwealth (20-7) – 6:00 PM ET, ESPN2, Saturday. Yes, this was our Game of the Week just two short weeks ago and yes, the Billikens all-but-clinched the Atlantic 10 crown by winning on their home floor. So why does the second iteration once again headline the week? Well, for one thing, it was a really good basketball game the first time around. Saint Louis held serve in Chaifetz Arena, sure, but not before VCU forced 17 turnovers and battled back from a double-figure deficit to make the final two minutes thrilling — it took a Rob Loe three-pointer with around 30 seconds left to ice it for the home team. And the defenses lived-up to their dominant billing, each limiting the opposing offense to well-under one point per possession on the afternoon. Even if you had tuned in for just five minutes of action, the high level of play and serious potential of both teams would have become quickly evident.

The Billikens and Rams will battle in Richmond this time around. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee)

The Billikens and Rams will battle in Richmond this time around. (Chris Lee, AP)

And that’s the overarching reason why Saturday’s tilt — this time in Richmond — is the main event in an already-loaded week; Saint Louis-VCU isn’t merely a marquee A-10 match-up, it’s a marquee national match-up. Everything at stake in a high-profile power-conference game is also at stake here: perception, NCAA Tournament profile, late-season momentum, bragging rights, and in the case of the Billikens, a very long winning streak. Jim Crews’ bunch has reeled off 19 straight victories over the course of three full months, last losing way back on December 1 to still-undefeated Wichita State. Shaka Smart’s group, meanwhile — fresh off a painfully-close road loss to UMass last Friday — has not dropped a home game in more than a year, obliterating visiting opponents this season by nearly 17 points per contest. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object in Verizon Wireless Arena, and the basketball-watching public will be the beneficiary. KenPom has the home squad pegged as 62 percent favorites, which is to say, it’s more or less a toss-up. Tune in on Saturday — Round II should be great.

Four More to Watch

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Murderers’ Row: Five of the Most Ruthless O26 Non-Conference Schedules

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 26th, 2013

Both Long Beach State’s Dan Monson and Oakland’s Greg Kampe are on record in saying that their philosophy of building extremely difficult non-conference schedules, among other things, helps with recruiting—players jump at the chance to play on the biggest stages against schools that never gave them a look. Other cited reasons include: checking player egos, identifying team weaknesses early in the season, and, of course, the influx of revenue those games produce. And while all of those interests appear legitimate—it’s hard to argue with two guys who have made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances apiece—there reaches a point, whether it’s in Rupp Arena or the Dean Dome or during a trip to the McKale Center, when one has to beg the question: Is it worth the agony? With that in mind, let’s examine the five most brutal O26 non-conference slates this season.

Oakland. Kampe’s schedules have been reliably absurd over the last decade, and this year is no exception. How about this for a road trip to start the season: games at North Carolina, UCLA, California and Gonzaga… in a 10-day span. The Golden Grizzlies ended up losing all four, with only the California tilt being close, and two players—starting point guard Duke Mondy and forward Dante Williams—were arrested during the west coast trip and forced to miss several games as a result. A couple of neutral court contests and a game at Western Michigan later, Oakland was heading home for Thanksgiving with a dismal 0-7 record. Now sitting at 4-10, the good news for the Grizzlies is that they are back to full strength and demonstrating a level of resilience, even pushing Michigan State for 40 minutes in the Palace of Auburn Hills last weekend. Travis Bader, the most prolific three-point shooter in college basketball, has also begun heating up; the senior hit 21 shots from behind the arc over his past three games.

Greg Kampe and the Grizzlies face a gauntlet schedule.

Greg Kampe and the Grizzlies face a gauntlet schedule.

Notable non-conference games@North Carolina (L), @UCLA (L), @California (L), @Gonzaga (L), Ohio (W), @Indiana (L), N-Michigan State (L).

Long Beach StateMonson probably did not expect he would have to dismiss two key contributors before the season started when he created this non-conference deathtrap. But that’s exactly what happened when Tony Freeland and Keala King, who combined for 20 points per game last year, were kicked off the team last May. Perhaps the 49ers coach would have avoided the trip to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic or backed out of agreements with Arizona or Missouri or another (or two) of LBSU’s talented non-conference opponents. But then again, probably not. The man loves facing elite competition, and his team’s 3-9 record so far this season is clear evidence of that. By the time the Niners enter conference play in January, they will have played eight KenPom top 100 foes, including five in the top 50. That seems like a recipe for a lot of losses, especially after the graduation of star forward James Ennis. One positive note for Monson’s club, however, is that UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb became eligible to play last Thursday night just in time for a home tilt against USC, in which he scored 20 points and helped snap the team’s nine-game losing streak. Brighter days are ahead.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Marquette 59, #14 Davidson 58

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between Marquette and Davidson. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Marquette Saved Its Best for Last, and Davidson Saved Its Worst – After trailing for almost the entire second half and staring at a seven-point deficit with under two minutes to play, Marquette found the wherewithal to stage a March-worthy comeback. Through 38 minutes and 57 seconds, Marquette had shot 1-of-11 from three-point range, but they managed to drain three straight contested threes in the final 63 seconds, the last of which pulled them to within a point with 11 seconds left. And that’s when Davidson threw away the game. They’d committed just one turnover in the second half, in the face of heavy perimeter pressure. But De’mon Brooks chose the worst possible moment to throw a wild pass into the frontcourt that Nick Cochran could not track down. With the ball back and five seconds left, Marquette’s Vander Blue drove to the basket, and Davidson’s defense, which had contained dribble penetration all game, retreated, allowing him to convert a relatively easy layup to win the game with a second left.

    Vander Blue's game-winning layup put Marquette to the third round and sent a devastated Davidson squad home. (AP)

    Vander Blue’s game-winning layup put Marquette to the third round and sent a devastated Davidson squad home. (AP)

  2. This Was As Tough a Loss as They Come – For 39 minutes, Davidson withstood Marquette’s bruising physicality, even seeming to out-tough them at times. Their defense clamped down on Marquette’s guards, clogging the paint, shutting down their dribble penetration, and contesting shots all game. They held Marquette to just 34 percent field goal shooting (and 27 percent from three-point range). And when their hot three-point hand cooled off, they mustered enough offense against Marquette’s tough interior defense to be in a position to win. It was the kind of gutsy mid-major performance that makes March special, and it made the Wildcats’ collapse in the final minute all the more painful.
  3. Marquette’s Aggression on the Boards Paid Off — Offensive rebounding is an important part of Marquette’s offensive attack, and at halftime, they had rebounded 10 of their 22 misses. But they converted these boards into just three second-chance points. That was  due, at least in part, to Davidson’s tough gang defense under the rim. But the Golden Eagles kept at it, and in the second half, they scored six key second-chance points late in the game.

Star of the Game: Vander Blue, Marquette’s leading scorer, had a mediocre offensive game overall, but he came through when it counted most. His three-pointer with 11 seconds to play pulled the Golden Eagles to within a point, and his drive and finish on the final play of the game gave us our first great Tournament moment.

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The Other 26: Bracket-Busting, East and Midwest Edition

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC columnist and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

This is part two of our TO26 bracket analysis, focusing on the 17 non-power-conference teams that populate the East and Midwest regions. The teams are grouped into five rough categories, and, within each category, they are ordered by their likelihood of advancing.  For our analysis of the South and West regions, see here.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

  • St. Louis (#4 Midwest) — The Bilikens are flying a bit under the radar, but this is a team that should be a favorite for a Sweet 16 run. They have one of the best defenses in the country, a group of experienced guards who can attack and shoot (Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett), a surprisingly effective post presence in Dwayne Evans, and a pair of pick-‘n-pop big men (Rob Loe, Cody Ellis) who can drain the three. It should be said, though, that the Bilikens’ draw is not necessarily ideal. A first-round game against New Mexico State presents some matchup quandaries (see below), as does a potential Third Round game against Oklahoma State — both teams are prepared to bang and grind with the Bilikens down low. Ultimately, I think the St. Louis’ defense is strong enough to get them to the Sweet 16, where their steady guard play gives them a non-trivial chance of knocking off the Cards.
Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

  • Butler (#6, East) — Yes, they’re back. Neither Bucknell nor their potential Third Round opponent (Marquette or Davidson) will be an easy team to conquer, but all three of these teams will give Butler an important reprieve from its biggest vulnerability — a tendency to turn it over. Bucknell and Marquette will also play at the kind of grinding pace at which the Bulldogs excel. And they’ll focus their offense on the areas of the floor where Butler’s defense is strongest — the paint. Butler also has the shooters — Rotnei Clark, Kellen Dunham — to bombard Marquette’s compact defense and the rebounders to exploit Marquette’s weakness on the glass. If anything, Bucknell may pose a bigger matchup problem, as they tend to chase teams off the three-point line and they don’t give up much on the offensive glass. The Bison will be a tough opponent, but when you look at Butler’s pod as a whole, a Sweet 16 run looks well within reach.

One and Done

These teams have at least a 50/50 (or better) chance of picking up a win, but are unlikely to get two.

  • Colorado State (#8, Midwest) – I would actually bump the Rams up to the tail end of the “Regional Threats” group if not for the uncertain status of starting point guard Dorian Green. The team’s unquestioned floor general, Green suffered an ankle injury in the first round of the MWC tournament, and though he played in a semifinal loss to UNLV, was ineffective. With a fully healthy Green, the Rams’ have a good chance of toppling Missouri. The two teams are somewhat similar in that they try to score in the paint on offense, while keeping opponents out of the paint of it on defense. Neither team is especially potent from the three-point line, and both rely a fair amount on offensive rebounding, though the Rams’ have the advantage here, especially as they are equally adept at controlling their defensive glass. That, along with Missouri’s tendency to be a bit loose with the ball, may be the difference-maker. And don’t sleep on Colorado State’s chances against Louisville in the next round. The Cardinals’ weak points are defensive rebounding and three-point shooting. The Rams are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and as noted above, their defense forces teams to beat them from the three-point line. They also take pretty good care of the ball, which will serve them well against Louisville’s pressure defense. But this analysis could be all for naught if Green isn’t healthy enough to be effective.
  • Creighton (#7, Midwest) Doug McDermott is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player in college basketball. His All-American status owes itself to his incredibly precise offensive footwork, positioning, movement, shot, and cuts. He has inside-outside skills that present a very tough matchup if you’re not used to guarding him. And he’s surrounded by lots of great three-point shooters. Cincinnati’s defense has generally been strong, so they might be able to contain McDermott and the Bluejays’ three-point attack. But they’ll have to be especially effective because their offense has been truly miserable. I like the Bluejays’ chances here. A Third Round matchup with Duke would be a tougher proposition, as the Blue Devils combine a defense that shuts down the three-point line with an offense that is far more high-powered than Cincinnati’s. McDermott may well get his points, especially posting up inside, but that’s not likely to be sufficient.

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Bracket Prep: East Region Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Brian Otskey (@botskey) breaks down the East Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC East Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCeastregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Brian breaking down the East Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

East Region

Favorite: #1 Indiana (27-6, 14-5 Big Ten). Ranked No. 1 in 10 of the 19 AP Top 25 polls this season (through last week), Indiana is the strong favorite in this region. The Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season title but fell to Wisconsin in the conference tournament semifinals this past Saturday. Indiana fans are definitely bummed that their team won’t be playing in the Indianapolis regional but they will still show up. IU fans travel as well as any school in the country.

Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers earned the top seed in the East region (Photo: Andy Lyons)

Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers earned the top seed in the East region (Photo: Andy Lyons)

Should They Falter: #2 Miami (27-6, 18-3 ACC). It has been a dream season in Coral Gables as Miami won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. History, however, is against this team. Miami has made only one Sweet Sixteen appearance (1999-2000) in program history, representing the furthest this program has ever ventured into March. Also, nobody on the roster has ever played in an NCAA Tournament game. There are positives, though. Head coach Jim Larranaga obviously had a memorable run with George Mason in 2006 and most of Miami’s major contributors are older, veteran players. It’s much easier to win when you’re coaching 22- and 23-year olds rather than 18- and 19-year olds.

Grossly Overseeded: #4 Syracuse (26-9, 14-8 Big East). Despite advancing to the Big East championship game and playing better than Louisville for 24 minutes in that game, Syracuse’s overall profile looks more like a #5 or #6 seed rather than a #4. The Orange were just 5-5 in true road games, under .500 against the RPI top 50 and only 12-9 against the top 100. Before the Big East Tournament run, Syracuse had lost seven of its last 12 regular season games. There’s no doubt the week at Madison Square Garden helped Jim Boeheim’s team (as it historically has), but Syracuse is still too high for my liking.

Grossly Underseeded: #14 Davidson (26-7, 20-1 Southern Conference). Stephen Curry put Davidson on the map with a magical run to the 2008 Elite Eight, the only NCAA Tournament victories for the Wildcats since 1969. This year’s edition is pretty good in its own right. Coached by Bob McKillop, who has now made a respectable seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his 24 years at the small school near Charlotte, North Carolina, the Wildcats won 26 games and lost only once in conference play. Davidson challenged itself in the non-conference, playing the #20-rated schedule that included games against Gonzaga, Duke and New Mexico. Davidson has just two top 100 wins but we figured a 26-win team that scheduled up would have been rewarded with something other than a #14 seed. Ken Pomeroy’s rating projects only a four-point loss to Marquette so it’s clear that the Wildcats are capable of winning a game.

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Bracket Prep: Western Kentucky, Davidson, James Madison, Gonzaga & Iona

Posted by BHayes on March 12th, 2013

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Championship Week continued in full blast on Monday night, as five more NCAA Tournament tickets were punched. As each of the 31 automatic qualifiers plays their way into the Dance over the next week, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets next weekend.

Western Kentucky

Sun Belt Cinderellas Again -- Welcome Back To The Big Dance Hilltoppers

Sun Belt Cinderellas Again — Welcome Back To The Big Dance Hilltoppers

  • Sun Belt Champion (20-15, 14-10)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #166/#183/#184
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +0.5
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #15-#16

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Who needs the regular season anyways? For the second consecutive campaign, Western Kentucky saw months of mediocrity give way to an unlikely week of dominance at the Sun Belt Tournament, where they depart as champions again. The sequel may never be as thrilling as the original – the 2012 Hilltoppers were just 9-18 (!) before winning their final six games to earn the auto-bid – but this Western Kentucky team is as unlikely a Big Dance participant as any.
  2. Western Kentucky isn’t elite in any one facet of the game, but they may be able to match up with their opening round opponent with regard to physicality and toughness. The Hilltoppers are third in the Sun Belt in effective height, and also rank third in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. 6’6” sophomore George Fant is slightly undersized for the amount of time he spends in the paint, but leads the team in rebounding at 6.6 boards per game. Fant also ranks in the top 50 in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Senior Jamal Crooks (11.8 PPG, 4.1 APG) is another high-motor Hilltopper – his emotional energy and leadership is a crucial reserve for the young team around him.
  3. Expect WKU to compete on both ends, but don’t mistake intensity with skill. They do not shoot the ball well from deep, turn the ball over at an unacceptable clip (on 22.3% of possessions), and don’t play a whole lot of defense either. It all adds up to a rather unimpressive paper profile, and the 10-10 Sun Belt record before this week does little to make you feel better about things. The exact seed line will depend on what happens elsewhere, but either way, it’s hard to envision the Hilltoppers being competitive, much less capable of manufacturing an upset for the ages.

Davidson

Soak It In De'Mon -- You And The Wildcats Are Tournament Bound Yet Again

Soak It In De’Mon — You And The Wildcats Are Tournament Bound Yet Again

  • Southern Conference Champion (26-7, 20-1)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #69/#66/#67
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +9.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #12-#14

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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The Other 26: You Will Be Entertained

Posted by IRenko on January 19th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a one-week hiatus, we are back and just in time for a veritable orgy of great college hoops matchups today.  Yes, there is Louisville v. Syracuse, Florida v. Missouri, Oregon v. UCLA, and Ohio State v. Michigan State.  But things get no less interesting as you move down to the mid-major level, where several compelling matchups featuring conference contenders will unfold.  Before we get to the Top 10, let’s take a look at what’s on tap today:

  • Gonzaga at Butler — The nation’s two Cinderella darlings will square off at the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse in a made-for-TV (yes, ESPN College Gameday will be in the house) contest.  It will be the final game of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule and, arguably, its toughest.  The loss of Rotnei Clarke to a frightening neck injury will take some of the luster off of this matchup, as Butler will be playing without their leading scorer.  The task will be no easier on the other end of the Court, as the Bulldogs will have to contend with a potent Gonzaga frontcourt, led by 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who has emerged into a bona fide All-American candidate.  But as we all know, being the underdog suits Brad Stevens just fine.
  • Creighton at Wichita StateDoug McDermott has wowed the nation over the past week with a pair of 30-point games, and between his dominance and Creighton’s three-point shooting, the Bluejays’ offense has become quite difficult to stop.  But if there’s a team in the MVC who can do it, it’s Wichita State.  The Shockers have the best defense in the league, which will have the added boost of a raucous home crowd for this premier matchup.  The Shockers’ strong, quick guards will challenge Creighton at the other end, and Cleanthony Early might prove a tough matchup for McDermott.  Carl Hall is also back in the lineup for the Shockers, so both teams will be at full strength.
Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

  • Harvard at Memphis — With Conference USA muddling through a down year, this could be be Memphis’ toughest opponent of the 2013 calendar year.  The Crimson have turned in a quality season despite the unexpected one-year withdrawals of senior leaders Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey due to an academic cheating scandal.  Much of the credit for that goes to freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who is fifth in the country in minutes per game.  Tommy Amaker has put a great deal of faith in the young man, but he has rewarded him with a 31% assist rate, 50% three-point shooting average, and 88% FT shooting average.  Chambers will lock horns with Joe Jackson, who has steadied himself this season to become a reliable scorer and team leader.  The senior point guard has hit double-digits in points in 12 straight games, the longest mark of his college career.
  • Western Illinois at North Dakota State — North Dakota State has been one of the great underreported stories of the season, rolling up a 16-3 record and supplanting South Dakota State as the Summit League’s favorite.  But Western Illinois has also creeped to the top of the league standings, just a game behind NDSU at 6-1.  The Leathernecks are led by an inside-out combo of big man Terrell Parks (13.9 ppg, 9.4 rbg) and do-everything senior guard Ceola Clark.  Clark is an excellent defender, and he’ll need to be at his best to help stop a North Dakota State that is a well-oiled, methodical, efficient machine.  Marshall Bjorkland, the Bison’s 6-8 junior, is arguably the most efficient scorer in the country.  He leads the nation in effective FG percentage (72.4%) and is fourth in true shooting percentage (71.2%).
  • Utah State at Denver — Louisiana Tech remains at the top of the WAC standings after holding off Idaho on Thursday night, but these two squads are just one loss behind them.  So tonight’s game has a lot riding on it.  Expect a low-scoring contest between two of the lowest tempo teams in the country.  Royce O’Neale and Chris Udofia lead Denver’s Princeton offense, which wears down opponents with movement and relies heavily on the three-point shot.  Utah State will look to Preston Medlin, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game, and center Jarred Shaw who gets lots of touches in Stew Morrill’s offense. 
  • College of Charleston at Davidson — Charleston will have a chance to move into a tie atop the Southern Conference South standings with a win at Davidson.  They’ll be led by their backcourt combo of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt, while their hosts will rely more heavily on their frontcourt tandem of De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.  Davidson can fall in love with the three-point shot to their detriment.  They’re better when they get the ball to the versatile Brooks and Cohen.  Getting the ball in the basket won’t be easy against Charleston, which has a pretty good defense anchored in the middle by Adjehi Baru.
  • Belmont v. Tennessee State – You would think that this game between the OVC’s two undefeated teams would lose its luster with the absence of Tennessee State’s star big man, Robert Covington, except for one thing — they’ve won every one of their six OVC games without him.  Covington went down with a torn meniscus in a December 18 trip to Middle Tennessee State that the Tigers went on to lose by 38 points.  At that point, they were 5-7 on the season but they’ve reeled off seven straight since and now sit atop the OVC East standings.   But they may need more than the Ewing Effect when they travel across town to face off with Belmont.  The switch from the A-Sun to the OVC hasn’t dimmed the Bruins’ ability to dominate their conference competition.

So there it is, a day-long feast for the glutton who craves mid-major hoops.  We move on, now, to the updated Top 10 rankings, our weekly (starting this week) Honor Roll, and a few more games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

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Southern Conference Tournament Preview

Posted by EMoyer on March 2nd, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Tournament Preview

Tournament Tidbits

  • Davidson earned its 11th Division title since the SoCon went to the division format in 1995 (the most among SoCon schools – Chattanooga is 2nd with eight).
  • De’Mon Brooks won the fourth SoCon Player of the Year for Davidson in the last eight years (Brandan Winters, 2005; Stephen Curry, 2008, 2009).
  • UNC Greensboro’s Wes Millerearned the Coach of the Year by the SoCon Sports Media Association becoming the the first conference coach of the year in the Spartans’ 21-year history.

    De'Mon Brooks and Davidson Are One Of The Heavy Favorites To win The SoCon Tourney (AP)

  • UNC Greensboro won its first outright division title and earned its first bye to the quarterfinals since 2008.
  • The Spartans’ Trevis Simpson averaged 23.7 points per game in February, tops in the SoCon. Simpson had averaged 16.7 points per game for the season prior to February 1.
  • Wofford will attempt to join current SoCon members Davidson (1968-70 and 2006-08), Chattanooga (1981-83 and 1993-95) and Furman (1973-75) as the only schools to win three straight SoCon Tournament titles. (Former members North Carolina 1924-26, NC State 1947-52, West Virginia 1955-60, and ETSU 1989-92 each won at least three straight titles).
  • Elon’s nine conference wins are their most since 2007-08.
  • Since moving into the Phoenix starting lineup 13 games ago, Jack Isenbarger has averaged 19.5 points per game and shot 46.1% on three-point tries.
  • Georgia Southern’s Ben Drayton III needs 26 points to reach the 1,500-point milestone for his career.
  • Georgia Southern has not won a SoCon Tournament game since 2007.
  • Western Carolina’s Keaton Cole needs one 3-point field goal to move onto the SoCon’s top-10 single season list. He has hit 102 3-pointers this season, good for fourth in the country.
  • College of Charleston closed the season by winning six of its last seven games, matching the Cougars’ best seven-game stretch this season.
  • The Cougars earned a #4 seed in the tournament, their first time not earning a top-three seed since joining the league in 1998-99.
  • For the third time in four years, Furman will open SoCon Tournament play against Samford. In 2009, Samford claimed a 57-52 victory; Furman returned the favor last season by beating the Bulldogs 61-48 in first-round action.
  • The Citadel has won two games in a single SoCon Tournament once in 60 tournament appearances (1959).
  • The Bulldogs’ Mike Groselle has 22 career double-doubles, tied with Regan Truesdale for the most in program history.
  • Chattanooga lost the first game of 2011 SoCon Tournament … the Mocs have not lost their first conference tournament game in consecutive years since 1978-1979-1980.

Reader’s Take

 

Team Tournament Capsules

  • #1S Davidson: Championship Appearances: 57; Record 57-46; Best Finish: Champion – 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008; Last Season: L, First Round.
  • #1N UNC Greensboro: Championship Appearances: 15; Record 12-13; Best Finish: Champion – 2001; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal.

    UNC Greensboro Lost In The Quarterfinals Last Year. Will This Season Be Different For Wes Miller and Company? (AP)

  • #2S Wofford: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 11-11; Best Finish: Champion – 2010, 2011; Last Season: Champion.
  • #2N Elon: Championship Appearances: 9; Record 9-8; Best Finish: Runner-up – 2008; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal.
  • #3S Georgia Southern: Championship Appearances: 19; Record 12-18; Best Finish: Semifinals – 1993, 1994, 2001, 2004, 2005; Last Season: L, First Round.
  • #3N Western Carolina: Championship Appearances: 33; Record 16-31; Best Finish: Champion – 1996; Last Season: L, Semifinal
  • #4S College of Charleston: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 17-12; Best Finish: Champion – 1999; Last Season: L, Final.
  • #4N Samford: Championship Appearances: 4; Record 2-3; Best Finish: Semfinals – 2009; Last Season: L, First Round
  • #5S Furman: Championship Appearances: 59; Record 44-52; Best Finish: Champion – 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980; Last Season: L, Semifinal
  • #5N Appalachian State: Championship Appearances: 41; Record 40-38; Best Finish: Champion – 1979, 2000; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal
  • #6S The Citadel: Championship Appearances: 60; Record 11-59; Best Finish: Runner-up – 1959; Last Season: L, First Round
  • #6N Chattanooga: Championship Appearances: 35; Record 52-24; Best Finish: Champion – 1981, 1982, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2009; Last Season: L, Quarterfinal

Tournament Schedule (All games played at U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, NC)

  • Friday, March 2, 11:30 am ET: #4S College of Charleston vs #5N Appalachian State (SoConTV); Season Results: Feb 4 (College of Charleston 74, at Appalachian State 62); Series Record: Appalachian State leads 17-11; Tournament Series: College of Charleston leads 4-3.
  • Friday, March 2, 2:00 ET: #3N Western Carolina vs #6S The Citadel (SoConTV); Season Results: Feb. 16 (at Western Carolina 70, The Citadel 53); Series Record: The Citadel leads 34-27; Tournament Series: Tied 1-1.
  • Friday, March 2, 6:00 ET: #4N Samford vs #5S Furman (SoConTV); Season Results: Feb. 18 (at Samford 55, Furman 49); Series Record: Furman leads 8-3; Tournament Series: Tied 1-1.
  • Friday, March 2, 8:30 ET: #3S Georgia Southern vs #6N Chattanooga (SoConTV); Season Results: Dec. 1 (at Georgia Southern 84, Chattanooga 76), Jan. 28 (Georgia Southern 75, at Chattanooga 72); Series Record: Chattanooga leads 31-17; Tournament Series: Chattanooga leads 3-0.
  • Saturday, March 3, Noon ET: #1N UNC Greensboro vs #4S/#5N Winner (ESPN3); UNC Greensboro vs College of Charleston: College of Charleston leads 20-9; UNC Greensboro def. College of Charleston 73-66 on Jan. 12 and 78-63 on Feb. 15. UNC Greensboro vs Appalachian State: Appalachian State leads 20-17; Appalachian State def. UNC Greensboro 78-64 on Dec. 1 and UNC Greensboro def. Appalachian State 77-73 (OT) on Jan. 26.
  • Saturday, March 3, 2:30 ET: #2S Wofford vs #3N/#6S Winner (ESPN3); Wofford vs Western Carolina: Western Carolina leads 23-19; Western Carolina def. Wofford 67-57 on Jan. 7 and Wofford def. Western Carolina 82-56 on Jan. 30. Wofford vs The Citadel: Wofford leads 48-45; Wofford def. Western Carolina 82-63 on Dec. 3 and 62-55 on Jan. 26.
  • Saturday, March 3, 6:00 ET: #1S Davidson vs #4N/#5S Winner (ESPN3); Davidson vs Samford: Davidson leads 7-1; Samford def. Davidson 77-74 on Jan. 28, Davidson def. Samford 81-54 on Feb. 15. Davidson vs Furman: Davidson leads 96-61; Davidson def. Furman 86-65 on Dec. 3 and 71-53 on Feb. 1.
  • Saturday, March 3, 8:30 ET: #2N Elon vs #3S/#6N Winner (ESPN3); Elon vs Georgia Southern: Georgia Southern leads 9-8; Georgia Southern def. Elon 69-63 on Jan. 5. Elon vs Chattanooga: Chattanooga leads 11-9; Elon def. Chattanooga 88-87 on Jan. 21 and Chattanooga def. Elon 83-75 on Feb. 9
  • Sunday March 4, 6:00 ET: Semifinal #1 (ESPN3)
  • Sunday March 4, 8:30 ET: Semifinal #1 (ESPN3)
  • Monday March 5, 7:00 ET: Semifinal Winners (ESPN2)
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Checking In On…the Southern Conference

Posted by EMoyer on February 25th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can follow him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Bye Bye: Davidson and UNC Greensboro secured first-round byes into the SoCon Tournament as top seeds of the South and North Division, respectively. The last remaining spots will be decided until after Saturday’s finales.
  • Busted: In BracketBusters, the SoCon split its four games as College of Charleston and Appalachian State scored victories but Davidson and Wofford dropped their respective contests.
  • Academic Honors: Student-athletes earned spots on the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America Team. Wofford senior guard Brad Loesing was named to the first team, while Davidson junior JP Kuhlman garnered third-team honors.

End of Year Honors

Since this edition is the last “Checking In On” for the SoCon before the end of the season, no time seemed more appropriate than now to dole out some hardware (hardware not included).

  • Coach of the Year: Charlton Young, Georgia Southern: After winning a total of 14 games in his first two years in Statesboro, Young guided the Eagles to a second-place showing in the South Division and achieved the second-biggest win improvement in SoCon history winning 12 league games after winning just one in 2010-11.
  • Freshman of the Year: Karl Cochran, Wofford: On a Terrier team that faced major overhaul from the past two seasons in which they claimed NCAA Tournament bids, Cochran has paced all SoCon freshmen in scoring (11.0). In addition, he ranks in the top three in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.

    Eric Ferguson Is The RTC Southern Conference Player of the Year (Georgia Southern Athletics)

  • All-Conference Team: De’Mon Brooks, Davidson (15.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 53.1 FG Pct); Eric Ferguson, Georgia Southern (14.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 57.0 FG Pct); Mike Groselle, The Citadel (16.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 59.2 FG Pct); Andrew Lawrence, College of Charleston (12.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 1.8 SPG); Brad Loesing, Wofford (14.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, 38.6 MPG).
  • Player of the Year: Eric Ferguson, Georgia Southern: Ferguson has been at the front of the Eagles’ ascent up the SoCon standings. He ranks in the top six in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage. He increased his shooting percentage to 46.2 percent and increased his scoring by almost three points per game.

Power Rankings

  1. Davidson (21-7, Previous Ranking: 1): The Wildcats secured their tenth 20-win season under head coach Bob McKillop and won their eighth division title in the last 12 years. 98 percent of the WildCats’ scoring and 96 percent of their rebounding comes from juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
  2. Wofford (18-12, Previous Ranking: 4): The Terriers extended their streak of 10-conference-win seasons to four after beating Elon on Feb. 15. Wofford improved to 15-1 when leading at halftime. Against UNC Greensboro, Brad Loesing surpassed the 1,000-point mark. Read the rest of this entry »
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