Managing pregame nerves is a key for any team, especially at the beginning of the season when freshmen are being introduced to the college level and other players are taking on new and more important roles. The nerves haven’t avoided Creighton, which opens up the season at home tonight against Alcorn State, but for the most part, it sounds like the Bluejays are handling things well… or, at least more cleanly than some of Greg McDermott’s former players: “I once had a guy that would throw up before every game,” the Creighton coach told The Omaha World-Herald‘s Steven Pivovar. This Bluejays team is experienced, with a ton of returning pieces in both the starting rotation and coming off the bench, so nervousness about the 2013-14 season should be at a minimum. They do exist, though, as guard Grant Gibbs acknowledges: “Pregame jitters are real, especially if you haven’t played in front of a lot of people. I think that’s the biggest adjustment, having a lot of people watching you. But it’s still basketball, and it’s something you have to deal with.”
MyCentralJersey.com’s Jerry Carino filed a lengthy preview of the Seton Hall season yesterday, complete with the presumptive strengths and weaknesses of the team as well as a schedule and full roster breakdown. Carino believes this to be the deepest Pirates squad in years, and expects Kevin Willard to run as many as 11 players on to the court on a nightly basis. He’s excited about the shooting and play-making ability of guard Sterling Gibbs, who will man the point for Seton Hall this year. The schedule, without powerhouses like UConn, Syracuse, and Louisville getting in the way, should open up a bit for a team like Seton Hall that was constantly fighting to stay afloat in the old Big East. It may be a good sign that Carino’s negative list is a bit less tangible; he lists “injury hangover” and a void in vocal leadership along with a lack of depth as guard, as the reasons that Seton Hall may struggle this year.
Georgetown is over in South Korea in anticipation of tonight’s Armed Forces Classic match-up with Oregon, and the Hoyas spent their first day at Camp Humphreys touring the facilities and meeting with soldiers in between practices. The team also held a clinic for the children of soldiers on the base. Forward Nate Lubick is especially grateful for the chance to connect with those serving overseas for the United States: “This was just a great opportunity to get a close up look at what life is like for the men and women who protect our country. We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to come here and play a game and to thank them for all they do.”
St. John’s has been great at manufacturing top freshmen during the Steve Lavin era, and this year’s top newcomer may be the most important. Rysheed Jordan, a highly-touted point guard out of Philadelphia, has been given the keys to Lavin’s offense, a unit with a lot of talent at its disposal between fiery shooting guard D’Angelo Harrison and athletic sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson, last year’s top Big East freshman. However, it sounds like he may make a huge impact on the other end of the floor as well. According to Lavin: “He’s one of the more special talents. He’s so disruptive defensively. There’s no frills in his game. He’s all business in practices and games. He’s all about winning and already taking leadership.” Hopes are high for a St. John’s team that has been compiling talent under Lavin, but has yet to really break through with his guys. If Jordan, who is donning the number ’23’ on the back of his red jersey, lives up to the high standards he is setting for himself, the Johnnies may contend at the top of the Big East and play meaningful ball in March.
Butler guard Jackson Aldridgeis having a rough go of it as of late – his playing time seems to be waning as the team has brought in impressive young players at his position, and his best friend Andrew Smeathers recently announced that he would leave the program. Despite this adversity, Aldridge has said that he will not be going down the same path as Smeathers, and will stick things out with the Bulldogs: “Leaving is not for me. As this whole (situation) has been going on this week, people don’t understand, just how attached Andy was, and I am, and everyone else is, to this program and this place.” Aldridge’s minutes were cut last year as a sophomore to six per game after averaging almost 14 MPG as a freshmen, when he also contributed 3.7 points per game. A paltry 17 percent field goal percentage is probably a major reason for the drop-off. In the team’s first exhibition this year against Nova Southeastern, Aldridge had a nice performance, scoring eight points and dishing out two assists in just 10 minutes of action. He was not quite as impressive in the second exhibition against DePauw, scoring two points in 11 minutes, but more performances like his first exhibition could help him clinch a decent role in the Bulldogs’ rotation.
Luke Winn wrote a piece on a little-known coach named Bill Fenlon, the head man at Division III DePauw University, and you’re wondering why. Remember the flap several weeks back when the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective released its findings on 2009-10 game data that showed there is no significant difference in the coaching strategies to foul or not foul on the last possession? Well, a decade ago Fenlon did a similar analysis where he calculated the mathematical odds of fouling/not fouling while up three points with seven seconds or less left on the clock. The 2,728 word paper ultimately found that there is a 19% chance of the game going to overtime by playing strong defense; but only a 5% chance of OT if a team fouls correctly in that situation. This flies in the face of the conclustion of the HSAC study, but one possible explanation is that, due to data limitations, the HSAC had to consider all possible last possessions (rather than those with seven seconds or less). Very interesting stuff from Winn, as always.
The Summit League is planning a site visit to Great West member North Dakota during the first two days of November to assess whether the school might be a good future candidate for league expansion. This would appear to be a good fit, as North Dakota State and South Dakota State are current members of the league and South Dakota is set to join next year. Nothing like cornering the Dakota collegiate sports market! All kidding aside, there may be a conference battle brewing over the Fighting Sioux as this push by the Summit appears to be precipitated by the Big Sky’s recent interest in UND as well.
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber spent a full day last week tooling about the nation’s capital as part of his charity work for Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society. The Illini are among the top ten fundraisers in CvC, and Weber has made a point of the maxim to “give something back” now that he has reached the upper echelon of his profession. Great to see this.
There was a time where we honestly believed that Richmond, once the darlings of the CAA, had made a mistake in joining the higher-up-the-food-chain Atlantic 10. No longer, and the reason: head coach Chris Mooney. Under the legendary Dick Tarrant and (later) John Beilein, the Spiders made six NCAA Tournaments from 1984-98 and won games as every seed from the spectrum of #12-#15 — in other words, the seeds that usually don’t win NCAA Tournament games. It took some time, but it appears that Mooney has gotten UR acclimated to the A-10 and the Spiders should be able to regularly play the role of favorite against some other future giant-killers themselves.
Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena is set to open to the public in January, but two Ducks — EJ Singler and Jeremy Jacob — took an early tour recently with goofy hardhats in tow. Place looks sick, especially the part about the highest-resolution big screen used in any arena in America. Now, if Oregon can just find some decent players in order to put fans in those plush seats and show highlights on that ridiculous jumbotron.