RTC Conference Primers: # 31 – MEAC

Posted by jstevrtc on October 3rd, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Readers’ Take I

Top Storylines

  • Turmoil at Bethune-Cookman.  Bethune-Cookman is the defending regular season champion, but can they concentrate on basketball? Since least season, the school has fired Clifford Reed, its head coach for the previous nine years, because of “insubordination and failure to cooperate” during an investigation of the basketball program. His son, C. J., was last year’s conference Player of the Year and the league’s top scorer, but was named (not charged) in a now-closed sexual assault case and has left the college. The elder Reed is suing the school for wrongful termination. Forget that the Wildcats will be under new leadership and have to place replace C.J.’s scoring; will they be able to concentrate on hoops with this stuff hanging over the program all year?
  • NCCU Wild Card.  We ask the above poll question about North Carolina Central because even though they’ve been readmitted to the MEAC, the Eagles welcome three transfers from Power Six conferences (on whom more in a bit). In the few pre-season writeups we’ve seen so far, NCCU has been predicted anywhere from first to 12th. They’re by far the biggest wild card in this conference this season.
  • MEAC Parity.  From 2000 to 2009, the MEAC post-season tournament saw only two schools claim more than one title (Hampton and South Carolina State). Hampton took the conference tournament crown last year and won the honor of a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Morgan State took the two before that, and Coppin State won in 2008. Those three schools have separated themselves in recent years as the top programs in this league. Which one will rise up this year, or can another squad challenge that trio?

Predicted Order of Finish

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RTC Conference Primers: #30 – MEAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2010

RTC is still seeking a MEAC correspondent.  If you are interested in covering this league, email us for further information at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Morgan State (13-3)
  2. South Carolina State (12-4)
  3. Norfolk State (10-6)
  4. Delaware State (9-7)
  5. Bethune-Cookman (9-7)
  6. Maryland-Eastern Shore (8-8)
  7. Hampton (8-8)
  8. Howard (7-9)
  9. North Carolina A&T (6-10)
  10. Coppin State (4-12)
  11. Florida A&M (2-14)
  12. Savannah State (*provisional member — ineligible for postseason and league awards)
  13. North Carolina Central (*provisional member – ineligible for postseason and league awards)

All-Conference Team

  • CJ Reed (G) — Bethune-Cookman
  • Hillary Haley (G) – Maryland-Eastern Shore
  • DeWayne Jackson (F) — Morgan State
  • Kyle O’Quinn (F) – Norfolk State
  • Kevin Thompson (F) — Morgan State

6th Man

  • Darnell Porter (G) — South Carolina State

Impact Newcomer

  • Dominique Sutton (F) — North Carolina Central.  NCCU isn’t yet playing a complete MEAC schedule nor is it eligible for postseason play this year, but the Eagle program is already making noise on the recruiting trail with the announcement of high-major transfer Sutton returning to Durham to suit up for his hometown team.  As of this writing, the 6’5 junior forward who averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG as a full-time starter last season for Kansas State was practicing with the team and awaiting an NCAA decision on whether he can play this season.  He moved back east to be closer to his girlfriend and two daughters in Durham, and the wing player who terrorizes the glass on the offensive end (especially given his size) will automatically become one of the best players in the MEAC as soon as he is eligible.

Bozeman is Building Quite the Program in Baltimore

What You Need To Know

  • All Morgan, All the Time. Todd Bozeman has built a powerhouse in Baltimore to the tune of three straight regular season titles, two straight NCAA bids, and a 46-6 record against MEAC teams the last three seasons.  But like all consistently great programs, Morgan doesn’t re-build anymore as much as re-load.  From Jamar Smith to Marquis Kately to Reggie Holmes to the next generation (Thompson and Jackson), Bozeman continually has high-mid major talent playing for him.  The Bears’ strategy is clear — play a tough non-conference schedule to build up their RPI (beating DePaul, Maryland and Arkansas in recent years), dominate the MEAC, and get back to the NCAA Tournament.  Morgan State earned #15 seeds the last two seasons, but they haven’t yet been matched up against the right team in order to pull off the upset — #2 seeds Oklahoma (2009) and West Virginia (2010) were simply too powerful inside for them to handle.  Could it come this season?

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Elite Eight Game Analysis: Saturday Night

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional final games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Saturday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

4:30 pm – #2 Kansas State vs. #5 Butler  (West Region)

This is an unusual regional final, in that two teams that are not typically in this position are facing off for a right to go to the Final Four next weekend.  Which is not to say that either team is undeserving or somehow less worthy, it’s just to point out the uniqueness of it.  The last time the Wildcats were playing this far into the NCAA Tournament, Ronald Reagan was still governing the country and the four letters USSR actually meant something to people under thirty.  The last time Butler played this deep into March?   Well, they haven’t.  As in, this is the Bulldogs’ first trip to the Elite Eight.  So from the perspective of seeing some new blood pushing through to the game’s grandest stage in Indianapolis, this should be compelling theater.  And the hoops ain’t half bad either.  K-State brings an athletic, gritty, defensive-minded team into this game, led by their duo of electrifying guards, Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.  They don’t always shoot the ball well and they sometimes utilize questionable shot selection, but when the game is on the line as it was on Thursday evening against Xavier, Clemente (25/5/5 assts) and Pullen (28/4) made the plays necessary to win the game.  Butler, on the other hand, is a bit more balanced in their offense with scoring threats at every position, but the Bulldog defense is really what defines Brad Stevens’ team.  Riding a 23-game winning streak on the backs of the stickiness of it, there simply are no completely open looks against this team.  When Pullen and Clemente come off their curls and screens, they’ll find a Butler player waiting for them in much the same way that Andy Rautins and the other Syracuse shooters did on Thursday.  Correspondingly, the one area where SU held a significant advantage over Butler — powerful inside players — ended up being neutralized by the extreme difficulty that the Orange had in getting the ball into those players on the blocks.  K-State’s inside trio of Dominique Sutton, Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels are all talented but not the offensive threats posed by Syracuse’s bigs, so we think that this game will ultimately be decided on the perimeter.  If the Butler team defense can force a relatively poor shooting night from the Wildcat guards, a combined 11-30 or so, we think that the game will be low-scoring enough for the Bulldogs to sneak through and head back home to Indy with a regional championship in tow.  Butler can get enough points from their options of Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, or Willie Veasley, so if any one player is off, another is capable of stepping up.  All they really will need to score is in the 60-70 point range.  Similar to the Syracuse game, if they can hang with KSU until the end, they’re poised enough to pull the victory out.

The Skinny:  Call us crazy or just plain sentimental, but we’re going Norman Dale with the upset. The rims are still only ten feet tall no matter who you’re lined up against, and there’s no telling when Butler will have another shot like this.  We think the Bulldogs will shock the world with its own personal Cinderella story by heading back home to Indianapolis, a mere five miles from their campus.

7:05 pm – #1 Kentucky vs. #2 West Virginia  (East Region)

The best regional final this season will take place in Syracuse, where chalk prevailed to bring us a 1 vs. 2 matchup of Kentucky and West Virginia. Of course, if the Selection Committee had any sense two weeks ago, this game wouldn’t have happened until Indianapolis. One can make the argument that these are the two best teams remaining in the field. West Virginia methodically dispatched of red hot Washington in their semifinal while Kentucky amassed one of the more impressive Tournament in-game runs in recent memory to vanquish Cornell’s season. The two teams meet on the Carrier Dome floor playing their best basketball of the season- Kentucky running and gunning behind their three lottery picks and West Virginia molding into an elite rebounding and defensive squad that simply wears you out.

This should be an ultra competitive and physical game, especially in the post. The key for the Mountaineers on the defensive end will be containing John Wall. Darryl Bryant is injured and Joe Mazzulla isn’t quick enough to hang with Wall for an extended period of time, so look for Huggins to plug 6’8 point forward Devin Ebanks and his incredible wingspan on the future #1 pick. The problem that poses for Huggins is that decision keeps Ebanks out of the post where Kentucky can play both DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. It’s going to take a stellar effort from Wellington Smith, Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and John Flowers to keep the two Kentucky behemoths in check. With four serviceable big men, they shouldn’t be afraid to foul and send Cousins to the free throw line to earn his points. Also, analysts talk about how no team works harder than West Virginia. They’ll need to work as hard for 40 minutes as they have all season, most notably on the backboards.

The other question: can West Virginia score enough points to match Kentucky? The Wildcats scored just over seven points per contest more than the Mountaineers during the regular season and numbers on defense are about identical. If Kentucky defends similarly to their effort against Cornell, I have a hard time seeing West Virginia stay with Big Blue, especially if Darius Miller replicates his stalwart defense on Da’Sean Butler. John Calipari’s UMass and Memphis teams that were successful always gave 100% on the defensive end of the floor. With so many young and hyped players, that was a constant question mark. If anyone has watched their three games in this NCAA Tournament, though, that question has turned into a statement.

Skinny: Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite remaining in the Dance, but West Virginia is more than capable of crashing the party. It will take their best performance of the season on both ends, from neutralizing the stronger Cousins and Patterson on the glass to dismissing Kentucky’s transition game to keeping John Wall in front of them to Butler scoring at least 25 points. I believe Kentucky will impose their style of play about midway through the second half, go on one of their patented runs and pull away for a spot in Indianapolis. The way Kentucky is playing right now, how can anyone pick against them unless you bleed blue and gold? But that’s the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. Everything can change in the blink of an eye.

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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Thursday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler  (West Region)

We’re starting to worry about this Arinze Onuaku situation.  Sooner or later, Jim Boeheim’s team is going to need the 11 points, five rebounds and general defensive anchor support on the front line that the 6’9, 260-pound big man provides.  Rick Jackson is a serviceable replacement, but the fact that Onuaku reportedly hasn’t even suited up in practice since his injury against Georgetown on March 11 is cause for alarm.  Even if Syracuse survives to advance to next weekend’s Final Four, how productive could he possibly be?  So far, Syracuse hasn’t shown a need for him yet.  The Orange ran over Vermont and Gonzaga without breathing all that hard thanks to the superb play of Wesley Johnson and friends, but there will be a team in the very near future where they’ll need more than Jackson alone can provide.

That team will not be playing SU in the Sweet Sixteen, however.  Butler is an excellent team and Brad Stevens has gotten players other than Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard to step up this season, most notably Shelvin Mack who went 9-12 from long range in the San Jose pod against UTEP and Murray State.  Syracuse is not UTEP or Murray, though, and the wide-open looks that Mack was getting in those games will no longer be as readily available thanks to the length and quickness of the Orange’s perimeter defenders.  Furthermore, Butler center Matt Howard has enough trouble staying out of foul trouble against Horizon League teams; it’s not realistic to think that he’ll be able to play 30+ effective minutes against Jackson, Johnson and Kris Joseph inside.  The main problem we foresee is that Butler is not a very good offensive team in general — when Hayward and Mack aren’t firing on all cylinders, the Bulldogs have trouble scoring points.  Add that to the fact they’ll be facing one of the best offensive teams in America, and you have a situation where numerous things need to go exactly right for Butler to get this win tonight.  Even without Onuaku on the floor for another game, we just don’t see Butler finding enough offense to win this game.

The Skinny: The last time the Bulldogs made it this deep into the NCAAs, they ran into a long, athletic team by the name of Florida in 2007.  They played the defending and future national champions as closely as they were played in that tournament thanks to their control of the tempo, strong defense and  attention to detail, but it still wasn’t enough because the Florida offensive attack was simply too good.  We think the same thing will happen in this game.  Syracuse has too many weapons for the Butler defense to key in on all of them, and even if they catch SU on an off night, where will the Butler points come from?

7:27 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #11 Washington  (East Region)

Most prognosticators felt that Washington had Sweet 16 talent coming into this season. Lorenzo Romar was returning reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas, defensive stalwart Venoy Overton and a forward named Quincy Pondexter ripe for a breakout season. While Pondexter’s prediction panned out, guard play was shaky, road wins were hard to come by, and the Huskies found themselves on the NCAA bubble with seven losses in a weak Pac-10. A conference tournament win punched their ticket, though, and the Huskies have taken advantage of the opportunity, erasing a double-digit second half lead to beat Marquette and wiping the floor with Mountain West champion New Mexico. Their toughest test yet will come Thursday against Big East Tournament champion West Virginia. Washington needs to produce a near carbon copy of their performance against New Mexico. In other words, they need to play a near-perfect game. Thomas must keep his head on straight and continue to make outside jumpers. Overton must frustrate Da’Sean Butler, Elston Turner must continue to produce offensively and Pondexter must out-duel Devin Ebanks.

For West Virginia, Washington seems like a favorable matchup. They may have preferred Joe Mazzulla guarding Isaiah Thomas more than the sidelined Darryl Bryant anyway. Mazzulla is the superior defender and Bryant has been woeful shooting-wise the last three weeks. They also match up well with the length of Washington. Bob Huggins can throw a lineup out on the floor of players 6’6 or above with huge wingspans, meaning the long WVU defense could fluster Pondexter and force him into difficult shots. One possible negative to the Bryant injury is that it increases the likelihood that the Mountaineer offense will become too reliant on Butler to bail them out. He’s done it time and time again this season and in postseason tournament play. Does he have more magic up his sleeve?

The Skinny: West Virginia has a plethora of defenders that can frustrate Pondexter and they boast the best late-game scorer in the nation in Butler. That combination should prove enough to take care of Washington in fairly methodical fashion. Avoiding their typical slow start would be prudent.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.23.10

Posted by THager on March 24th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

  • Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson has insisted that his players are handling the added attention well, but it is hard to keep your composure when you walk into a lecture hall and receive a standing ovation, as Ali Farokhmanesh experienced on Monday.
  • Many people know that Farokhamnesh transferred to UNI, but most people do not know that UNI, like most other schools, knew about him in high school and passed up on him.
  • According to Dan Blank, the key for Michigan State will be to push the ball (something Kansas failed to do when they let Jordan Eglseder score 14 points in 18 minutes).  However, given the injuries they have recently sustained, Blank says hastening the pace may not be so easy.
  • Ohio State has been criticized for a lack of bench production, but Blank points out that the short bench may benefit the Buckeyes.
  • The Buckeyes are underdogs in this game, but Inside Tennessee’s Patrick Gibson reported that the Vols had a solid practice session on Monday.  That should come as no surprise, as this week Doug Gottlieb listed Bruce Pearl as one of his top coaches in the country.

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

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First Round Game Analysis: Thursday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Thursday afternoon games.

Thursday, March 18 (all times ET)

12:20 pm – #7 BYU vs. #10 Florida  (Oklahoma City pod)

The NCAA Tournament kicks off in style this year with a good first round game from Oklahoma City.  BYU enters the postseason riding the wave of one of its most successful regular seasons in decades, but it won’t matter much if the Cougars can’t slay their old bugaboo of winning a first round game on Thursday afternoon.  The last time BYU won an NCAA opener in 1993, Grant Hill’s high fade was in style and the internet was something employees wore in their hair at fast food joints.  Eight trips later, BYU has by far its best team and chance to end that losing streak.  Jimmer Fredette is the best player casual fans haven’t yet heard of, but his 21/3/5 assts per game and 45% three-point shooting allow for the occasional explosion, as in the cases where he dropped 49 points at Arizona or 45 against TCU just last week in the Mountain West Tournament.  The Cougs’ opponent, Florida, limped into the postseason, having lost four of five games and is a questionable entrant (especially as a #10 seed).  But the Gators are still dangerous, boasting five players who average double figures with an ability to go off at any time.  The most difficult problem Florida will face, though, is how to stop the highly efficient offense that BYU brings to the dusty plains.  Dave Rose’s team shoots well from everywhere on the floor, and the Gator defense has been appropriately described as soft throughout the season, so UF will have to get into a high-scoring shootout to have a chance to outscore the Cougars in this one.

The Skinny: it’ll be difficult for Florida’s defense to slow the offensive talents of Fredette and his Cougars so we’re going with BYU by ten in a shootout.

12:25 pm – #6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Old Dominion  (New Orleans pod)

Everybody knows about the Irish and their response to what was believed to be a potential season-ending injury to their superstar Luke Harangody. After the injury (and during Harangody’s return), the Irish have rebuilt themselves into a better team. We’re not saying they are a better team without Harangody because that would be ridiculous, but the brand of basketball they play when they don’t dump it down to him and watch him go to work is producing better results. They will have their hands full with the CAA champion (both regular season and tournament) Old Dominion. While the Monarchs ended up losing many of the “resume-building” games they played this year, they were competitive in most of them (5-point loss versus Missouri and 9-point loss at Northern Iowa) they also managed to win the biggest game on their schedule at #3-seeded Georgetown. So we know they can hang with a Big East team. Now the question is whether senior Gerald Lee can put it together to lead Blaine Taylor’s squad to an upset in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.  It says here that they can, but the Irish are playing so well that they won’t.

The Skinny: Notre Dame gets enough production from each of its key scorers and is able to clamp down late on Lee and company to eke out a six-point victory.

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: The Semis

Posted by jstevrtc on March 13th, 2010

My goodness, how fun is this?

Meet Katie and Christie, two of the cockiest KU fans in the throng. Pretty easy to see why.

Was it raining in Kansas City yesterday?  You’d never know it.  Even with temperatures in the mid-40s and a light drizzle falling, the Power and Light District was still filled with college hoop lovers to the point where you could barely navigate through it.  The Kansas fans are still greatest in number and noise-making ability, but the Kansas State fans have been slowly creeping up to rival the Jayhawk supporters in both categories.

I don’t have to tell you about how many great teams there are in the Big 12 and the high quality of basketball that the conference has given us all year, but how fitting is it that for the final, we have Sunflower Showdown III?  Frank Martin said that Saturday’s game will have “the greatest atmosphere for any one game this year.”  Couldn’t agree more, coach.

Some notes from the games and the day in general:

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