Big Ten “Other” Postseason Recap: Minnesota Pushes for a Trip to NYC

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 25th, 2014

The Big Ten has three teams still playing in the Sweet Sixteen, and after Penn State’s loss to Siena on Monday night, it now has one team still alive to win one of the other three postseason tournaments. Here’s a brief rundown on what’s been going on with Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State as they finished out their seasons in the NIT and the CBI over the course of the last week.

Despite not getting much production from leading scorer Andre Hollins, Minnesota has made it to the Final 8 of the NIT. (AP)

Despite not getting much production from leading scorer Andre Hollins, Minnesota has made it to the Final 8 of the NIT. (AP)

Illinois: The Illini got a raw deal in the fact that they had to play both of their NIT games on the road despite being a #2 seed. They started things out last week with an ugly win at Boston University, getting down 30-13 early but managing to go on a 53-32 run over the last 24 minutes to finish off a four-point win. Illinois shot 8-of-17 from three and were +12 on the boards in the victory. This did not carry over to Illinois’ second contest on Sunday against Clemson. In a defensive struggle, the Illini were outrebounded by seven and shot only 14 percent from behind the arc (3-of-21). Clemson is a strong defensive team, but this game summed up the Illinois season. They struggled to make any shots, didn’t have a good option on the low block, and despite forcing 15 turnovers, couldn’t close things out in the end in losing by one point, 50-49.

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Big Ten M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 7th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Everyone knows about Adreian Payne the basketball player, but unless you are a regular viewer of the BTN show “The Journey,” you may not know the story of his relationship with 8-year-old cancer patient Lacey Holsworth. He met her when he and his Michigan State teammates went on a hospital visit, and they’ve remained friends and have been a constant source of motivation for each other. In the wake of news that Lacey’s cancer has unfortunately returned, Bleacher Report’s Jason King does a tremendous job tracing their special bond and some of the off-the-court tragedies Payne has overcome to become a potential first-round draft pick.
  2. Minnesota has struggled defensively all season long, and it’s worth wondering whether a switch to man-to-man on a permanent basis might be a cure for what ails them on that side of the ball. On one side, the zone can be effective because there simply aren’t very many teams in the conference that consistently make teams pay from the outside. On the other side however, the Gopher man-to-man helped them have a much better second half defensively against Purdue. Playing man would allow Deandre Mathiue and Austin Hollins to potentially get more steals and allow the team to get easy buckets in transition. Either way, they can’t allow 23 offensive rebounds like they did against Purdue if they want to finish above .500 in league play.
  3. Mike Tyson quotes should be taken with grain of salt, but one of his more famous ones applied to Nebraska and their efforts in their 79-50 loss to Michigan on Wednesday night. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” can easily be applicable to how quickly Michigan came out and leveled the Huskers with hay-makers to the tune of 9 made three pointers in the first half. This result reinforces the fact that Nebraska cannot really be taken seriously until they get a quality road win, or just a road win in general. They get another chance Saturday when they travel to Northwestern.
  4. Tim Frazier is the first name people generally think of when they think Penn State basketball. But the contributions of DJ Newbill, especially during their three game winning streak shows that Newbill could be equally, if not more important to the team. After averaging only 8 points per game in his first three Big Ten games, Newbill has upped that mark to 19.7 points per game in their last six games, and 20 points per game in their last three wins. He also does a nice job on the glass despite being only 6’4″. It will be interesting to see where Frazier and Newbill end up once post-season honors are announced.
  5. Thursday means another edition of ESPN releasing Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology predictions. The most interesting takeaway from this edition is that it does nothing to solve the question about which conference is the best. If you were to only use the amount of NCAA tournament teams per conference to figure that question out, you would be greeted with a four-way tie at the top. The ACC, Pac-12, Big 12, and the Big Ten all have six teams in his field right now. Minnesota is the lowest seeded team right now for the league, with Indiana lurking as the third team in his “first four out” category.
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Big Ten M5: 02.06.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 6th, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Michigan certainly responded well to its first Big Ten loss last night by simply crushing Nebraska. The Wolverines have come back well from adversity in general since conference play started, and a lot of that has to do with Derrick Walton Jr.‘s progression. The freshman point guard started the season slowly, but since Big Ten play began he has seen his scoring rise by nearly three points per game while reducing his turnovers. His jumper and decision-making have also improved dramatically as he has grown more accustomed to the college game. His play down the stretch needs to continue this way, and if it does, Michigan will remain in contention for the Big Ten title against bitter rival Michigan State.
  2. The dark horse status that many gave to Penn State coming into this season didn’t start out so well. The Nittany Lions are now on a three-game winning streak, however, thanks to plenty of impressive numbers. Some of the most notable statistics include that of Brandon Taylor, who in the winning streak has averaged 15 points per game and 46.7 percent from three-point range, and 20.0 PPG for DJ Newbill. With a tough test at Michigan State coming tonight, Penn State will need both players to continue their recent strong play. The Lions are unlikely to win in East Lansing, of course, but if Penn State stays close with Sparty it sends a message to the rest of a muddled Big Ten that this team will compete the rest of the way.
  3. There were multiple reasons for Wisconsin‘s recent skid. One prominent reason was Sam Dekker struggling offensively, but he seems to have came out of his slump after hitting 4-of-7 three-pointers against Illinois. While Wisconsin has plenty of players who can score and take over the game when needed, Dekker’s impact as a versatile forward is extremely important. The Badgers are much more effective when Dekker can exploit the match-up issues he causes by bombing away from the outside. For a team relying so much more on its offense this season, Bo Ryan’s team needs its star to make sure his struggles are completely done.
  4. If you wanted 55 minutes of, well, uninspiring basketball, then Purdue‘s triple-overtime win over Minnesota last night was a real treat. The Boilermakers got the victory despite nearly giving it away with multiple missed free throws in regulation and the first two overtimes. Part of this problem is the Boilermakers’ stark lack of leadership and that its best leader, Travis Carroll, rarely sees action. Carroll does his job well, working against AJ Hammons in practice and playing hard when called upon. But even if Purdue lacks a more productive on-court senior leader, there has been time for some of the underclassmen to mature and take over those duties. Plenty of teams rely on young talent to not only be competitive but win conference and national titles. Matt Painter needs to find his on-court leadership somewhere or there will be more games like last night where the Boilermakers nearly blow what appeared to be an assured win.
  5. Ohio State certainly needed things to start going well again. With a pair of wins against Wisconsin and Iowa this week, it appears the Buckeyes got the morale boost and confidence that they desired. It came at a critical time for Ohio State, too. With a few more losses, what seemed like a team competing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament could have quickly found itself on the bubble. The players’ comments after beating Iowa seems to bear out that they believe they will win the close games coming down the stretch. For a team that relies so heavily on its defense, the confidence to believe it will score late in close games is absolutely crucial.
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Previewing the Holiday Tournaments: A Big Ten Perspective

Posted by Max Jakubowski on November 21st, 2013

The holiday tournaments tip off today and college coaches are huge fans of their teams participating in these events. With the quick turnarounds and neutral court sites, the events give players a glimpse of what their conference and postseason tournaments will feel like. From the prestigious eight-team Maui Invitational to the four-team Barclays Center Classic, each tournament provides valuable experience for teams and coaches alike to prepare for a postseason atmosphere. Along with gaining that precious experience, teams can also improve their non-conference resumes just by showing up. A couple of good performances or a holiday tournament championship looks pretty attractive to the selection committee in March. This year, the Big Ten has nearly the entire league competing in some sort of holiday tournament (Illinois and Ohio State are the two absentees). Let’s break down each of them, starting with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Charleston Classic and 2kSports Classic, beginning today.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational-Butler vs Illinois

Illinois Jump Started its NCAA Tournament Season A Year Ago in Maui

Puerto Rico Tip off: November 21-24

  • Teams: Michigan vs. Long Beach State, VCU vs. Florida State, Georgetown vs. Northeastern, Charlotte vs. Kansas State
  • Favorite: VCU
  • Projected Michigan Finish: 3rd
  • Michigan Player to WatchDerrick Walton Jr.
  • The Skinny: In the eight-team field, Georgetown, VCU, and the Wolverines are the clear front-runners. Georgetown lucked out as they are on the opposite side of the bracket of both Michigan and VCU. This means that a match-up of last year’s NCAA Tournament third round game between the two schools is likely in the semifinals. Last year, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. shredded Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense on its way to a huge victory. Now, Walton is set to run the offense for Michigan and go up against a veteran VCU backcourt. This game could spell major trouble for John Beilein and his staff, but could also be an important teaching moment.

Charleston Classic: November 21-24

  • TeamsNebraska vs. UMass, UAB vs. New Mexico, Georgia vs. Davidson, Clemson vs. Temple
  • Favorite: New Mexico
  • Projected Nebraska Finish: 5th
  • Nebraska Player to WatchTai Webster
  • The Skinny:  The Cornhuskers play UMass and then either New Mexico or UTEP in the next round. New Mexico is a top 20 team while UMass is expected to compete for a NCAA bid out of the Atlantic 10. Chaz Williams for UMass is an explosively fast guard who can distribute the ball well and shoot lights out from three. Tim Miles will have his work cut out to try and stop Williams, and the freshman Webster will get a nice welcoming from the “Chaz Master.”

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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part II

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013

Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape.  Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year.  Here’s our take:

Matt Painter's past success, and his very large contract, are among the reasons he'll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Matt Painter’s past successes, and his very large contract, are among the reasons why he’ll be in the Big Ten for a while.

Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas.  In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special.  Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.

Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits.  And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.

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Tim Frazier’s Return Makes Penn State Backcourt Best in the Big Ten

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on October 25th, 2013

Penn State isn’t known for being at the top of the B1G in anything basketball-related. But this season, even in a conference loaded with quality guards, the Nittany Lions will boast one of the top backcourt duos in the conference thanks to the return of Tim Frazier. Despite bringing in a decent recruiting class, head coach Pat Chambers has to be most excited to see the fifth-year senior returning from a ruptured Achilles injury that ended his season just four games into last season. At the time, Frazier was averaging 21.7 points and 5.0 assists per game as the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer and overall best player. Now, after being granted a final year of eligibility in Happy Valley, he is back and listed on the Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list despite not playing almost all of last season.

Tim Frazier's return from an achilles injury makes the Penn State backcourt one of the best in the B1G. (Photo credit: theschoolphilly.com)

Tim Frazier’s return from an Achilles injury makes the Penn State backcourt one of the best in the B1G. (theschoolphilly.com)

Losing Frazier was a big blow to Penn State’s hopes last season. He had earned first-team All-B1G honors as a junior after averaging 18.8 points per game, second best in the league, as well as the conference leader in assists (5.6 per game) and steals (2.4 per game). His season and play had been so strong that CBS named him No. 54 in their annual top 100 players list. His explosiveness and ability to pull up for a jumper and connect, made him a lethal offensive combination. Early reports from practice have Frazier looking back to form, and his abilities will help push Penn State out of the cellar.

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Mitch McGary Impressive, More Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over Penn State

Posted by KTrahan on March 14th, 2013

Kevin Trahan writes for the Big Ten Microsite and covers Northwestern sports for InsideNU.com. Follow him on Twitter at @k_trahan for Big Ten Tournament updates.

Michigan is off to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament for a date with Wisconsin after an 83-66 win over Penn State in the first round. The Wolverines’ struggles this season with the Nittany Lions continued in the first half, as they led by just two at halftime, but they pulled away in the second half for an easy win. Five UM players scored in double figures, led by Trey Burke with 21.

Here are three thoughts from courtside:

  1. Mitch McGary is going to be special: Big men typically take longer to develop as freshmen than guards to, so it’s no surprise that Mitch McGary wasn’t the most “fab” of Michigan’s star freshmen in the early going. However, over the past month, McGary has shown vast improvements and has arguably been the Wolverines’ best young player over that time span. McGary continued that dominance in the first half on Thursday afternoon, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds in 13 minutes of action. He had just one more rebound and no points in the second half, but the game broke open quickly and he wasn’t needed. McGary’s improvement is a great sign for a Michigan frontcourt that will need someone to step up next year. He’ll be helpful in this year’s UM postseason run, but next year is when he’ll ultimately be able to become a star, rather than just a role player. He has all the tools for stardom — he’s aggressive on the boards and has a great knack for the basket on second-chance opportunities — and as he gains experience, he’ll become even more of a threat.

    Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Penn State. (AP)

    Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Penn State. (AP)

  2. A good tune-up for Michigan: It’s kind of hard to believe that just a month ago, Michigan was the #1 team in the nation. Now, the Wolverines couldn’t even get a bye on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament. John Beilein’s team has struggled through a number of tough losses this season, none tougher than last Sunday’s home loss to Illinois, when a bad roll on the rim cost them a big win and a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That can really mess with your psyche. In a way, Thursday’s result at United Center was the perfect one for the Wolverines as they enter postseason play. It offered some adversity — Penn State began the game up 14-3 — but once things settled down, it helped the Wolverines build their confidence. They were effective from beyond the arc and got the ball inside, the latter of which they’ve struggled to do down the stretch. Friday’s game against Wisconsin will be a much bigger test, but Thursday’s game against Michigan couldn’t have gone much better for Beilein and company.
  3. Penn State’s future is bright: Penn State just might be the best 2-16 conference team in history. Being the best at being the worst isn’t exactly encouraging in itself, but the Nittany Lions are vastly improved since the beginning of the year, and that’s without first team All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier. They own recent wins against Michigan and Northwestern and also nearly took down Wisconsin and Iowa. They’re starting to get more confident, and next year could be the year they put it all together. Penn State could potentially have the best backcourt in the Big Ten in 2013-14. Frazier will be back, along with D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, who are both much better now than they were in January. The frontcourt, which has been a weakness all season, has started to improve. Forward Ross Travis has really started to come into his own, and he posted 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Wolverines. Four of those rebounds came in the early going, when he was arguably the best player on the floor for a stretch. As the pieces start to come together and players continue to improve, look out for Pat Chambers’ squad. Things are definitely looking up, even coming off a year with just two conference wins.
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Worst-Case Scenario at Penn State: Tim Frazier Out For The Season

Posted by jnowak on November 21st, 2012

Things went from bad to worse at Penn State this week. With Tim Frazier done for the season with a ruptured Achilles, the Nittany Lions lost basically their only source of consistent offense early in a season that had already turned ugly. Even after he was injured and played just six minutes in the Nittany Lions’ blowout loss at the hands of Akron (preseason selection to finish second in the MAC East Division), Frazier was still leading the club with 16.3 PPG. The Nittany Lions — with losses already to N.C. State and Akron, and close wins against St. Francis (Pa.) and Providence — are dead-last in the Big Ten in scoring offense, with 58.8 PPG. Take away Frazier’s average (he was second in the conference last year with 18.8 PPG) and that number into scary territory.

Without Tim Frazier, Penn State would be averaging 42.5 PPG this season. Now they’ll see what life without him is like. (Andy Lyons)

The Nittany Lions were already far too dependent on Frazier before the injury occurred. He played all but one minute in the Penn State’s first three games combined, totaling 65 points, which was 34 percent of the team’s total scoring output. It’s natural for a team — especially a lackluster one — to rely heavily on its best player, particularly when he’s an upperclassman. And with Frazier being a point guard, the offense is going through his hands anyhow. But with the Nittany Lions relying so heavily on the All-Big Ten player, it could potentially become a huge problem if, say, that player fouls out late in a game or endures an injury. What happens then? Well, we’re about to find out.

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Big Ten Team Previews: Penn State Nittany Lions

Posted by KTrahan on November 9th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Where we left off: A year removed from an NCAA Tournament berth, Penn State went into rebuilding mode and struggled to return to relevancy. The Nittany Lions featured one of the best players in the Big Ten in Tim Frazier, but had no consistency elsewhere, especially in the frontcourt. Forwards Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak struggled mightily and guards Jermaine Marshall and Cammeron Woodyard weren’t consistent enough to complement Frazier. The Nittany Lions ended up finishing 12-20 and 4-14 in the Big Ten. This year, there will be a lot of new faces, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as Patrick Chambers and his team try to regroup.

Tim Frazier Carries the Penn State Hoops Baton (CDC Photos/Christopher Weddle)

Positives: Obviously, the biggest positive for Penn State is Tim Frazier, who led the Nittany Lions in points, assists and rebounds last year and figures to be a first team All-Big Ten contender. Additionally, the Nittany Lions add D.J. Newbill, a redshirt sophomore who sat out a year after transferring from Southern Mississippi. He was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team two years ago, and he and Frazier should form an impressive backcourt duo. The frontcourt won’t be great, but Graham and Borovnjak should be improved this year, and Ross Travis has shown promise at forward.

Negatives: After Frazier, there are a lot of unknowns. Newbill certainly has talent, but will he be rusty after a year off and can he compete in the toughest conference in the country? The frontcourt still lacks talent and there’s no guarantee that Graham or Borovnjak will improve. The depth is there, but it’s not very talented depth, especially in the frontcourt. The Nittany Lions will be a very small team, and in a league full of talented big men, that could be a very big disadvantage.

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Big Ten M5: 11.06.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

  1. According to Penn State star Tim Frazier, the Nittany Lions may have something in newcomer D.J. Newbill that the team hasn’t seen in some time — swagger. Frazier, an All-Big Ten player in his own right, has already come away with a strong impression of Newbill, who transferred from Southern Mississippi to Penn State. ”He’s just got that Philly swagger in him,” Frazier said at Penn State’s media day on Monday. Second-year coach Pat Chambers echoed Frazier’s thoughts: “I’m going to use a very popular word right now: Swagger,” Chambers said, according to an Associated Press report. “He just has that ‘Philly chip.’ He’s got that toughness. He’s from the streets of Philly. He’s going to grind. He’s never going to give up.” Frazier could use a little help with the scoring load and it looks as if Newbill — who averaged 9.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG in 30 minutes per game as a freshman at Southern Miss two years ago — could be the man for the job.
  2. The Iowa basketball program hasn’t had much success in recent years and, as The Gazette‘s Mike Hlas points out, much of that has to do with the failed tenure of previous head coach Todd Lickliter. But if one good thing did come of those years, it was the recruitment of Devyn Marble, a player who appears poised to lead the Hawkeyes this year as a junior. “When I met him the first time I was really impressed with him,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “So much of being a great player is who you are as much as what you can do.” Of course, this young Marble has plenty of shoes to fill — namely those of his father, Roy, who is Iowa’s all-time leading scorer. Marble may not reach that level of play in his Hawkeye career, but if he can give Iowa what it needs this season — a vocal leader — then the Hawkeyes surely will be better off for it.
  3. In most cases, nobody likes to be called a pest. But sometimes, particularly if you’re playing for Bo Ryan, that can be a term of endearment. Forward Mike Bruesewitz has regularly fulfilled that role for the Badgers, but with the senior forward out 4-6 weeks with a leg injury, Wisconsin needs another player to step up. Enter Zach Bohannon. The scrappy junior guard impressed in the Badgers’ first exhibition, tallying 13 points but his six rebounds (four on the offensive end) may have been what stood out the most. Bohannon isn’t much of a scorer, but if he can scratch and claw his way onto the stat sheet, he could become a valuable player both before and after Bruesewitz returns. “He’s a digger,” Ryan said. “If you get lazy with a rebound, it’s gone around him.”
  4. Michigan State freshmen Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski are paying tribute this season to their friend Dorian Dawkins, who died on the Michigan State campus three summers ago at the age of 14. From Diamond Leung’s poignant story for MLive.com, Kaminski wears No. 30 so as to say “3 and nobody else” in honor of Dawkins, who was an AAU teammate of the Spartan duo who also dreamed of one day playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Together now, Kaminski and Costello carry memories of Dawkins with them every time they take the floor.
  5. One of the most concerning aspects of Illinois‘ season last year were their inconsistencies, particularly with the knowledge that the Illini had so much potential and squandered it so often. There’s a new regime in Champaign under head coach John Groce, but there are still plenty of lingering concerns. Illinois was admittedly sloppy in an exhibition win against Division II West Chester (PA) on Sunday, and maybe the most troubling aspect were the 21 turnovers (five from senior Brandon Paul) to just seven assists. Paul has the potential to be one of the best players in the Big Ten this season, but brain lapses like those exhibited against West Chester will surely haunt Illinois again this year if not corrected soon.
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Morning Five: 08.23.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2011

  1. Forgive West Tennessee residents if they feel like their beloved Memphis Tigers have taken on a colorful desert hue lately.  Head coach Josh Pastner announced on Monday that his open third assistant coaching position will go to former Arizona star and currently locked-out Los Angeles Laker, Luke Walton.  Walton continues the Wildcat theme on the banks of the Mississippi River, as Pastner and his two other assistants, Jack Murphy and Damon Stoudamire, are also UA graduates having come from the coaching tree of Lute Olson.  Walton will be responsible for big man instruction as well as some recruiting at Memphis, and the 31-year old who has only played intermittently because of nagging injuries the last two seasons, is probably looking for a comfortable landing spot once his playing career ends.  If you’re interested in more information on this, Pastner discusses the hiring of Walton in this clip.
  2. New Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers received great news with the completion of transfer paperwork for Southern Mississippi guard DJ Newbill on Monday.  Newbill, a native of Philadelphia where he was the Pennsylvania Class AA player of the year in 2009-10, had a fantastic freshman season in Hattiesburg.  He was selected as an all-CUSA frosh after a year where he contributed 9.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG while shooting 53.5% from the field.  His rebounding numbers are what sets him apart, though; at only 6’4″, 195 lbs, the lithe Newbill finished in the top 200 players nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (11.3%) and had six games of double-figure boards.  When he becomes eligible with three years remaining in 2012-13, Penn State fans are going to fall in love with the heart, effort and desire of this guy.
  3. It’s been a week since the Nevin Shapiro/Miami fiasco hit the media, and in the interim, Gary Parrish writes that Missouri brass have done exactly the wrong thing in leaving their new head coach (and subject of allegations) Frank Haith dangling in the wind.  By stating on the record that they are “waiting for the NCAA process to carry itself out,” they’re essentially cutting the legs out from under Haith’s ability to compete on the recruiting trail against schools that are without question using that uncertainty against him.  Of course, what Parrish argues makes complete sense here: Either you come out with full public support of your coach, or you don’t, but to leave him in a purgatory of pending is to effectively emasculate your own program.
  4. We talk a lot about the difficulties that mid-majors have in developing good schedules to improve their RPIs and, by proxy, their chances at the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.  But we rarely discuss the quandary that lower-level power conference teams face when setting their non-conference schedules.  As this piece by Brian Rosenthal at the Lincoln Journal-Star shows, Nebraska assistant coach Chris Croft called nearly every major basketball school in America in an effort to improve the Huskers’ schedule in 2011-12.  Most had no interest in a game with Doc Sadler’s team anywhere, and even fewer were inclined to travel to Lincoln during the winter.  Eventually they confirmed games against USC, Wake Forest and Oregon, but other schools, like Notre Dame (“stop calling”) and Duke (“only in Durham”) were considerably less interested.  Furthermore, with Nebraska’s recent move to the Big Ten and a less-than-amicable split from the Big 12 still fresh on everyone’s minds, the Huskers got a full Heisman from their old league — not a single school would play them next year, anywhere.  Go figure.
  5. Staying in the Big 12, Kansas announced on Monday that it would be holding an alumni game called “Legends of the Phog” on September 24 in Lawrence.  The NBA lockout has created a situation where NBA players have more available time for games like these (Kentucky, as you recall, had something similar in Lexington and Louisville last week).  The Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce has already committed to the game, and you can bet that many of Bill Self’s recent Jayhawk stars such as Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers and others will be in attendance.  Some of the proceeds will go to charity, and tickets will go on sale the week after Labor Day.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2011

 

Stephen Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

A Look Back

  • Memphis Edges Gonzaga in Non-Conference Showdown: Despite faltering in the conference standings, the Tigers squeaked out a four-point win against Gonzaga in a non-conference game. Both teams have enjoyed success at the mid-major level, however both programs are battling for an opportunity in March. For Memphis, the win does help their overall record of 17-6. Although their conference record is not flashy (5-3), they still have half a conference schedule ahead of them.
  • UTEP Ward Off Rice on Kazemi’s Career Night: Arsalan Kazemi grabbed a career-high rebounds against the Miners, however it wasn’t enough as UTEP topped Rice 59-53 last weekend. Kazemi is the only player in conference who is currently averaging a double-double (15 ppg and 11 rpg). Although it was in a losing effort, the sophomore’s efforts only help him gain attention. He ranks fourth nationally in rebounding.
  • UCF Continues Struggle, Falls to ECU: Frustration can be the only feeling in Orlando these days, especially following the Knights’ loss to ECU. Despite a great effort from Marcus Jordan (game-high 24 points), UCF lost to lowly East Carolina and descended to the bottom the conference with a 1-7 record. The game was hard fought, at least in the first half, as the clubs exchanged seven lead changes and tied five times.
  • Tulsa Tops Houston in OT Action: Tulsa completed their best week of the season, knocking off Houston in an overtime battle. Once again, senior guard Justin Hurtt led the Golden Hurricane, draining a game-tying three with 8.6 seconds remaining in overtime. Hurtt teamed up with Scottie Haralson, the young transfer guard, and they each scored 22 points.
  • UAB Hurdles Tulane in Defensive Brawl: Tulane simply couldn’t score, as the Green Wave tried out-defending the Blazers, but their efforts fell short. The big performance came from junior forward Cameron Moore, who scored 14 points and grabbed 16 boards in the win. UAB improves to 8-1 against Tulane in the Mike Davis era.
  • So. Miss Holds On Over Marshall: Senior Gary Flowers continued to be a force for the Golden Eagles as they notched their eighteenth victory of the season. In a battle of player of the week representatives, Flowers outdid freshman DeAndre Kane of Marshall .

Power Rankings:

  1. UTEP (18-5, 6-2) –The Miners don’t have No. 1 wrapped up by any means. However, they share the best conference record with Southern Miss, and they are playing solid basketball. Seniors Jeremy Williams and Randy Culpepper are enjoying strong final seasons. However, the senior that may be enjoying himself the most is guard Julyan Stone, who led the team with a career-high 23 points. He has been playing his best basketball of late, and the Miners have thrived from it.  
  2. Memphis (17-6, 5-3) – The Barton brothers seem to be anchoring this team as Antonio scored 17 points against Gonzaga. Will Barton, his brother, finished with 12 points, seven rebound and six assists. The Tigers improve got to 5-2 in their all-time series against Gonzaga.
  3. Southern Miss. (18-5, 7-3) – Senior Gary Flowers led by example in the Golden Eagles win over Marshall, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Freshman D.J. Newbill followed nicely with his own double-double, which included 12 points and ten rebounds.  This team is rising fast, especially after their win over UAB last week.
  4. UAB (16-6, 6-3) –Dexter Fields converted on eight three-pointers in the Blazers 75-71 loss to Southern Miss last Wednesday. Fields’ great individual effort wasn’t enough to help the Blazers as they dropped a pivotal conference standings, which has them outside the top 3 for the first time in a while.
  5. Tulsa (13-10, 6-3) –Tulsa has emerged thanks to Justin Hurtt. The senior, who averages 20.5 points per game, has solidified a First Team All-Conference USA spot at the end of the season. He has cemented himself at the top of the conference in terms of scoring, recording 20 or more points in 11 games this season. Tulsa has a three-game winning streak heading into the most important stretch of the season.
  6. SMU (14-8, 5-3) –Four wins in a row and the Mustangs seem to be the hottest basketball team in Dallas right now. Papa Dia and Robert Nyakundi continue to be one of the best duos in the conference over the past three weeks. Dia, a senior forward, had been a force in the post, scoring 13 points and 13 rebounds (his ninth double-double of the season) in the Mustangs win over East Carolina.
  7. Marshall (15-8, 3-5) – The name DeAndre Kane is becoming synonymous with the Thundering Herd program. The freshman guard has started off his career with consistent stellar play for a team that is still very much of the things. He led all scorers with 24 points against Houston and did the same a few nights later against Southern Miss, dropping 20 points on four threes (a career high). Kane is the best freshman in the conference at this point.
  8. East Carolina (13-10, 5-4) – Senior Jontae Sherron finished with 23 points against UCF as the Pirates rose above .500 in conference play, which is unusual considering the last time they were above .500 this late in February was 2002-2003.
  9. Houston (11-9, 3-4) –Their game this weekend against Tulane is a must win as the Cougars seems spiraling out of control.
  10. Rice (11-12, 3-6) –The Iran native Arsalan Kazemi is one of the more interesting stories in college basketball. He averages 15.8 points and 11.9 rebounds a night, but his back story transcends those numbers. And fortunately for the Owls, the numbers have been enough to move them out of the conference cellar.
  11. UCF (14-7, 1-7) –The Knights have forgotten that there are two parts in a college basketball season—the non-conference schedule and the conference schedule. UCF cruised early on, but their season may not be savable at this point.
  12. Tulane (12-10, 2-7) – UCF belongs here at the bottom, however it is hard to tell which team is worse at this point. Tulane went from a top 3 team in early January to dead last before the middle of February. Not much has gone right for the Green Wave, their 47-39 loss to UAB says a lot about where this club is at right now.

A Look Ahead

  • UAB Travels To Marshall: On Wednesday night, the conference schedule gets started for the week as the Blazers and the Thundering Herd square off. The Herd need a nice resume win and could get one tonight.
  • UCF Goes For Second Win On Nationally Televised Game Against Memphis: The UCF ballclub that went 14-0 to start the season has disappeared. However, this team could somehow still make their resume look better by beating Memphis. In desperation, any win counts and a chance to drop the Tigers to 5-4 makes it even more intriguing.
  • SMU and Tulane Square Off in Dallas: SMU hosts Tulane tonight in Dallas as the Mustangs look to continue their winning streak while keeping Tulane down. The Mustangs would be tied for the third best record in conference with the win. Papa Dia should have his way with the weak Tulane low-post defense.
  • Houston Hosts Tulane in Battle of Bottom-Dwellers: With both team’s reeling, Houston and Tulane each need a win badly. Both have losing streaks—Houston’s at five and Tulane’s at seven—however, they can retain some pride by ending the season on the right foot and entering the postseason with whatever hope there is left to salvage.
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