Checking in on… the Atlantic Sun

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 27th, 2010

Bucky Dent is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.  [ed note: this post was written prior to the Nov. 26-28 games]

A Look Back

  • Tommy Hubbard Injured: East Tennessee State forward Tommy Hubbard is battling knee problems which have kept him out of two games and hampered him in the only game he played, a Nov. 15 loss at Murray State. While the Buccaneers have enough depth to still field a solid lineup, they don’t want to think about life without Hubbard, their best defensive player and top scorer last year when they won the A-Sun tourney as a five seed. This puts more pressure on Mike Smith, Micah Williams and Justin Tubbs to score the ball without Hubbard‘s presence.
  • TV league Upsets: In the first two weeks of the season, A-Sun teams have already scored three attention-grabbing upsets over Power Six foes. Stetson outran and outscored Wake Forest 89-79 Nov. 12, followed by Kennesaw State’s 80-63 whacking of Georgia Tech Nov. 15 (think the Yellow Jackets will ever play in Kennesaw again?). Campbell followed with a 61-54 win at Auburn Nov. 20. One thing all three A-Sun teams have in common: they also lost their next game after those big victories.
  • Player of the Week: Lorne Merthie, Campbell - A streaky shooter, Merthie was on during the Camels’ 2-1 showing in a tournament at Auburn, averaging 15.7 points per game. Merthie also picked up four steals against the Tigers, while tallying 22 points and drilling 4-4 three-pointers in a narrow loss to Samford. Just missing the gold medal were Spencer Dixon and Ridge Graham. Dixon‘s 27-point outburst spearheaded Kennesaw State‘s epic drilling of Georgia Tech, while the ultra-athletic Graham went for a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double in the Hatters‘ victory at Wake Forest.

Power Rankings

1. Belmont (3-1)
Next Week: 11/29 at Tennessee State, 12/2 vs. Mercer

This has a chance to be the best team of coach Rick Byrd‘s 25 seasons in Nashville. The Bruins have excellent length and play fundamentally sound defense, forcing teams to take one well-contested shot, then finish the possession with a rebound. The offense is averaging 85.5 ppg in the first four games behind sophomore guard Ian Clark, who would have Dick Vitale screaming his name if he played in a bigger league. Inside, Belmont can count on Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders, who are very productive as long as they can stay out of foul trouble, which isn‘t a given. Point guard Drew Hanlen provides an outrageous 22-to-1 assist-turnover ratio and is a knockdown shooter from the three-point line. Eleven different players are averaging double-figure minutes, making this the league’s deepest and best team as we gird for conference openers next week.

2. East Tennessee State (1-2)
Next Week: 11/27 vs. Milligan, 12/1 at Dayton

When rating teams in this conference, one has to keep the big picture in mind. While the Buccaneers’ record isn’t impressive, consider their losses are at Kentucky and Murray State. Not too many teams anywhere would avoid a sweep in Lexington or Murray. Coach Murry Bartow just wants to weather the December storm (i.e. eight straight road games) and come out of it with his team healthy. The key will be getting Tommy Hubbard back from his knee woes. Mike Smith appears to be 100% after last year‘s injury nightmare, torching Tennessee Tech for an easy 26 points in a 73-60 win Nov. 20. ETSU remains one of the league‘s top defensive teams, doing it with a variety of zones devised by assistant coach Scott Wagers, who basically runs the defense. If it can get reasonable point guard play and get Hubbard healthy, it will challenge for a third straight NCAA Tourney bid.

3. Lipscomb (2-2)
Next week: 11/27 at UT-Martin

Mixed returns so far for the Bisons, which were competitive in losses at major powers North Carolina and Baylor but still aren’t playing good enough defense, allowing opponents to shoot 46.9 percent from the floor and average 82.8 points per game. The good news is Lipscomb’s offense isn’t running at full efficiency yet but is still scoring 83.2 points per game. The 1-2 senior punch of Adnan Hodzic and Josh Slater is performing as one would expect, combining to score nearly 38 PPG. Hodzic has become a better passer out of double-teams early this year and is also hitting 80 percent at the foul line, his career best. Freshman guard Robert Boyd is providing a spark off the bench, averaging 10.5 points and 2.5 steals per game.

4. Jacksonville (3-1)
Next Week: 11/27 at Auburn, 12/2 vs. Stetson

Last year at this time, the Dolphins had overscheduled and were getting blown out on a regular basis, although they bounced back to tie for the regular season title and win a first round NIT game at Arizona State. This year, with a less experienced team and a more reasonable schedule, they‘ve started 3-1. The star player is definitely Ayron Hardy, who, if you were playing A-Sun fantasy basketball (and if you are, you’ve got too much time on your hands), would be your No. 1 overall pick. All he’s done in four games is average 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.8 steals and 1.8 blocked shots. Besides Hardy’s all-around excellence, Jacksonville is getting much-improved production from sophomore forward Glenn Powell, who’s averaging 12.8 points and hitting 64.5 percent from the field. The defense is allowing just 66.8 ppg and forcing nearly 21 turnovers per game. Don’t sleep on these guys in this league.

5. North Florida: (3-3)
Next Week: 12/2 vs. Florida Gulf Coast

It is a good sign for this program that it‘s 3-3 after a brutal six-game road trip to start the year. Tossing out blowout losses against top-flight programs in Florida State, Pittsburgh and Missouri isn‘t easy, but the Ospreys were impressive on the defensive end in a 59-52 win Nov. 24 against MEAC kingpin Morgan State in Cancun. Sophomore forward Andres Diaz has become more of a scoring threat inside at 11.8 points per game, although he remains a brutal foul shooter at 47.8%. Tennessee State transfer Parker Smith has given this offense-starved squad scoring punch off the bench (11.5 ppg, 38.1 percent 3-pointers). Second-year coach Matt Driscoll, who helped Scott Drew rebuild the Baylor program, has quietly built a nice foundation in his own program.

6. Campbell: (2-3)
Next Week: 11/27 vs. Longwood, 11/29 vs. Johnson C. Smith

With a bunch of new players trying to find roles alongside a veteran backcourt, it might be until January before we know who the Camels are. Guards Lorne Merthie and Junard Hartley supply perimeter scoring punch and excellent defense, in that order. Junior college transfer Eric Griffin is the team‘s leading scorer and rebounded through five games, although he‘s making less than 43% of his shots. The roster‘s remainder is a bunch of decent role players who rarely go above or beyond what they can do. Tune in about six weeks from now and you‘ll know about the Camels.

7. Kennesaw State (2-4)
Next week: 11/26 at Creighton

When their shots are dropping, the Owls can beat anyone, like the ACC‘s Georgia Tech. When they aren’t, they can lose to anyone, like Alabama State, and lose by 40 at mediocre Iowa State. If nothing else, the current four-game losing streak is a reminder that coach Tony Ingle still has a bunch of sophomores who have growing to do at this level. The biggest things Kennesaw State must fix are defense and rebounding. It’s allowing opponents to hit nearly 46 percent from the floor, including 41.2% on 3-pointers, and is being outboarded by nearly four per game. Improvement in those areas might mean not being so shot-dependant.

8. Stetson (1-2)
Next week: 11/26 vs. Palm Beach Atlantic, 11/30 vs. Savannah State, 12/2 at Jacksonville

The win over Wake Forest resonated throughout the conference, but losses to Bethune-Cookman and Central Florida were a reminder that rebuilding remains for the Hatters. With sophomore forward Ridge Graham providing a double-double threat on a nightly basis, this team has a go-to option on the offensive end. Two other sophomores —  Tyshawn Patterson and Joel Naburgs — are also scoring in double figures. The down side is the team’s defense, which is allowing opponents to shoot 45% from the field and score nearly 81 points per game. But there is a future for Stetson, as this league will find out a year or two from now.

9. Mercer: (1-3)
Next week: 11/26 vs. Western Carolina (Williamsburg, Va.), 11/27 at William & Mary, 11/28 vs. Gardner-Webb (Williamsburg, Va.), 12/2 at Belmont

Where have you gone, James Florence, Daniel Emerson and E.J. Kusnyer? Without three players which combined for more than 44 points per game last year, the Bears are off to a sub-.500 start which doesn’t look like it will get a lot better. There are a couple of decent weapons in Brandon Moore and Jeff Smith, who are averaging a combined 28.5 ppg. But as a whole, Mercer doesn’t shoot well, especially from three-point range (21-of-90), and isn’t playing well enough on the defensive end (45 percent shooting, 71.2 ppg allowed). The Bears will have to fight just to make the conference tournament on their home floor.

10. Florida Gulf Coast: (2-2)
Next week: 11/27 vs. Miami (Fla.), 12/2 at North Florida

The record looks OK, but the two losses — 88-60 at Indiana and 90-47 at Arkansas — reveal that this team is still second-division material in the A-Sun. Good news is that guard Reed Baker has found his missing shot of a year ago, as he‘s averaging 19.5 ppg and went for 33 in a win at Grambling. But this is still a below-average team offensively (39.6 percent from the floor, 10-of-56 on 3s) and a poor team on defense (49.4 opponents’ field goal percentage, 81.5 ppg). While Ole Miss transfer Kevin Cantinol will help this team get tougher inside when he becomes eligible next month, he probably won’t make the difference between mediocrity and respectability.

11. USC Upstate: (0-6)
Next Week: Nov. 29 vs. UNC Asheville

There have been bright spots, such as the development of freshman forward Torrey Craig, as well as a nine-block shot performance from freshman Babatunde Olumyiwa in a Nov. 23 loss at South Carolina. But the Spartans are easily the conference‘s worst team, one which won‘t be favored in any game it plays this year. Not to pile on too much, but they might be the worst offensive team in America as they are scoring just 51.3 ppg and shooting just 31 percent from the field. Like a minor league baseball team, Upstate should concentrate more on player development and less on the record, although it would love to get that zero out of the win column sometime.

Playing the Percentages

Every week, we’ll look at an intriguing individual or team stat and determine fluke or trend. This week, it’s the three-point accuracy of USC Upstate guard Josh Chavis. A 37.9 percent shooter last year, when he canned ten threes in a game against Florida Gulf Coast, Chavis is colder than Siberia. The 5’9 senior is sinking just 5-of-30 from the arc and is a hideous 5-of-40 overall. We’re saying fluke for now because his career numbers aren’t close to being this bad. Keep on shooting, kid.

A Look Ahead

  • Conference play opens up on a limited basis next week. Belmont starts A-Sun play at home with struggling Mercer, which doesn‘t look like a fair fight. Jacksonville welcomes Stetson to town for each team‘s first A-Sun game. Can the Hatters keep their turnovers down against the very athletic Dolphins?
  • North Florida finally plays its home opener after six straight away from Jacksonville as it takes on A-Sun rival Florida Gulf Coast.
  • East Tennessee State begins a brutal eight-game road trip against a Dayton team which needs every win it can get as it tries to reach the NCAA Tournament. This would be a nice “statement“ game for the Buccaneers.
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Around The Blogosphere: And So It Begins. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on November 15th, 2010

Even though the season technically started earlier on November 8th we all know that Friday night was the real start of the college basketball season and the Internet is buzzing about weekend’s action. We scoured the Internet to find the best local voices to give you an inside look at what happened in the night’s biggest games. If you’re confused by the rankings, that is because they are from the official RTC Top 25.  If you are interested in participating in this feature, e-mail us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Friday Night

  • #2 Michigan State 96, Eastern Michigan 66: “Season openers generally aren’t going to be works of tremendous beauty, so they might as well be entertaining. And this one was (other than the constant stream of guys going to the free throw line, I guess). This team promises to be as entertaining as any Tom Izzo has coached–and that’s saying something. Becoming a truly efficient operation will take a little longer.” (The Only Colors)
  • #3 Ohio State 102, North Carolina A&T 61: “Hype. Rarely do teams, players and coaches ever live up to it. In No. 4 Ohio State’s season opener, the freshman class showed their addition to four returning starters is the perfect recipe to end a 51-year national championship drought in Columbus and, in the process, live up to their enormous hype.” (Eleven Warriors)
  • #6 Villanova 68, Bucknell 52: “Villanova fans who hoped for an early blowout were surely disappointed by some poor shooting and sloppy play in the early going.  Both teams played to a draw until Villanova took the lead for good with 12:38 remaining in the first half.  From that point, their lead would grow to as many as 16 points before the Bison clawed their way back to cut it to 5 points halfway through the second half when Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher took control.” (VU Hoops)
  • #7 Kansas 113, Longwood 75: “Kansas won it’s 60th game in a row in Allen Fieldhouse, and while it was just Longwood, there was a healthy dose of positives to take from the game. First, some roster things to clear up: Josh Selby sat again, and Self said there was no new news on that front. Elijah Johnson also had the night off in street clothes. Self said that he would address the situation after the game, but some shots of him on the bench showed him smiling and laughing, so it can’t be too serious. And Royce Woolridge played, so he is obviously not redshirting.” (Rock Chalk Talk)
  • #11 Syracuse 68, Northern Iowa 46: “All in all, it ended up looking a lot more solid at the end than it did in the beginning. The good news is, its early and while Northern Iowa isn’t as good as they were last year, they’re a decent opponent. They’ll get better and this win will look good in a few months. The freshmen can play (when they’re not fouling willy-nilly). The bench is deep. Kris Joseph has that takeover mentality we were hoping for. Rick Jackson looks dependable.  All we need to do is work out what’s going on at the guard spots and figure out the pecking order and we’ll be in good shape.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • #14 Kentucky 88, East Tennessee State 55: “I must say that it is hard to judge teams when they shoot the ball as well as UK did. The old axiom is that good shooting makes up for a bunch of mistakes, and that proved to be the case more often than not tonight. It isn’t that the Wildcats played poorly — to the contrary, as a team they played very well, arguably their best game of the season so far. But that does not mean that they played flawlessly.” (A Sea of Blue)

    Terrence Jones: 1st freshman to debut with a double-double since Jules Camara (Credit: Kentucky.com / M. Cornelison)

  • #15 Gonzaga 117, Southern 72: “The man who paced the Zags was without a doubt Steven Gray.  The senior leader was simply phenomenal tonight.  His outside shot resembled his freshman season and he would have easily secured a triple-double if he could have finished out the game.  Unofficially, Gray finished with 25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, and three steals.  That’s about as good as it gets in the college game.  Gray has always been a guy that can do everything and tonight was a prime example.” (The Slipper Still Fits)
  • #18 Georgetown 62, Old Dominion 59: “Well that wasn’t fun at all.  Georgetown survived one of the ugliest basketball games since James Naismith invented it in 1891.  Down by eight with less than 10 minutes to go, it looked like Georgetown’s offense wouldn’t score another point.  Then, in a flash, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman score 13 points on four shots, and all was forgiven.” (Casual Hoya)
  • #24 Temple 62, Seton Hall 56: “Coach Fran Dunphy’s Owls got the 2010 college basketball season off on the right foot after defeating Seton Hall on Friday night. The Owls were able to hold off a late surge by the Pirates to earn their first win of what hopes to be a very long season. Temple struggled a bit in the first half of play, but eventually managed to build up a 10-point lead over Seton Hall. The momentum carried into the second half and was able to hold on through the final buzzer.” (The Owl’s Nest)

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RTC Live: ETSU @ Kentucky

Posted by jstevrtc on November 12th, 2010

 

Game #2. We’re back in Lexington for Round Two of Calipari’s Young’in Brigade.

All is by no means lost, Kentucky fans. Four recruits out of last year’s top 70 will have to suffice for now. The NCAA’s decision on Enes Kanter has turned the Big Blue Nation…well, blue, and it’s conferred added importance on the more sizable Wildcats like Eloy Vargas and Josh Harrellson. John Calipari is left with a ten-man team out of which only nine will play major minutes. We know what he can do as a recruiter, but this year, more than ever, he’ll have to put his skills on display in managing such talent. The first official test comes at home against East Tennessee State, the team they beat in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Buccaneers return all five starters from that team, so this would seemingly be a good time to exact revenge. ETSU, however, will not have senior Tommy Hubbard, their scoring, rebounding, and steals leader from last year as he recovers from knee surgery. Still, they’ll bring four seniors and the core of a team that’s been to the Tournament two straight years, and because of that, this one might be more interesting than it appears at first glance. It starts at 7 PM, and we’ll start things up at Rupp Arena about 15 minutes before the tip. We hope you’ll join us.

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RTC Presents College Basketball’s Opening Weekend

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2010

After opening with four games apiece on Monday and Wednesday night, college basketball really starts to pick up this evening with 16 of the top 25 teams in action including Georgetown traveling to play a tough Old Dominion team. By Sunday night, 24 of the top 25 teams will have played with Missouri being the lone exception, as they do not play their first game until November 18th. Even though there are only a few games that I would deem particularly compelling in isolation it will be interesting to see how the new pieces on these teams work with the returning parts.

We will have more about each day’s game with our Set Your Tivo feature, but in addition to those games you can watch on TV, we will also be coming to you courtside from nine games on RTC Live this weekend. Check back throughout the weekend for more (somewhat) instant analysis and join us on RTC Live for action from across the nation.

Friday

  • Boston University at Northeastern, 7 PM – One of the early battles of Boston will occur in Matthews Arena as the Terriers come to play the Huskies, who will be significantly weaker this year after losing four of their top five scorers. Chaisson Allen and the Huskies will be tested against a promising Terrier team led by John Holland, the leading scorer in America East, who has support from a team that includes four transfers.
  • East Tennessee State at #10 Kentucky, 7 PM on Big Blue Sports and ESPN Full Court – This game will be interesting if only for the reaction of the Wildcats and their fans a day after learning that Enes Kanter, whom many said would be the key to their season, would never play in a Wildcat uniform. On the other sideline, the Buccaneers will be without Tommy Hubbard, their leading scorer and rebounder. Ok, technically Hubbard will be on the sideline, but you get my point…
  • Cornell at Albany, 7:30 PM – While the Great Danes should be improved with Tim Ambrose returning for his senior season, most of the college basketball world will be focused on the Big Red, who lost eight seniors, including Ryan Whitman, Louis Dale, and Jeff Foote along with their coach Steve Donahue, who headed to Boston College. New coach Bill Courtney will be relying on Chris Wroblewski as one of the few known elements of his team to help guide the Big Red in the early season while they try to establish a new identity.

Saturday

  • North Florida at #5 Pittsburgh, 4 PM on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court - We aren’t expecting this to be a particularly competitive game, but it will be worth following to see the co-favorites in the Big East (along with Villanova and Syracuse). The Panthers have one of the best backcourts in America with Ashton GibbsBrad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown, but the success of the team could well depend on the interior play of Gary McGhee, who has been quiet so far this season.
  • Harvard at George Mason, 4 PM – Jeremy Lin is gone, but Tommy Amaker returns with a solid squad–led by Kyle Casey and Keith Wright–that is good enough to win the school’s first Ivy League title. [Ed. Note: The Crimson are the only historic Division 1 program to have never won a league championship. And the answer is no, we do not count schools that joined recently in the discussion.] They will have their hands full, however, as they travel down to Fairfax, Virginia to take on Jim Larranaga‘s squad that is led by Cam Long and Ryan Pearson and could very easily end up winning the CAA.
  • #23 San Diego State at Long Beach State, 7 PM – This game should be all about the Aztecs who return all five starters from a team that challenged Tennessee in a close game in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament last March. The Aztecs, who are led by sophomore sensation Kawhi Leonard, should challenge BYU for the Mountain West title this season, but Steve Fisher has higher aspirations for what’s certainly a Sweet 16-level team. Look for Casper White to make his mark for the 49ers, but the Aztecs should win this one fairly easily.
  • Weber State at Utah State, 9:05 PM – An early season Bracket Buster match-up that might be the most interesting game of the weekend. The Wildcats will have the best player on the court in Damian Lillard, projected as a potential first round pick in 2012, but they will have to travel to Logan to take on a Aggie team that returns four of five starters but will really miss Jared Quayle as they have to break in a new point guard against Lillard.

Sunday

  • Cornell at Seton Hall, Noon on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court – Their second game of the weekend should be significantly more challenging for the Big Red as they travel to play a Pirate team that has a new coach in Kevin Willard and returns two stars in Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope. We know what to expect from Hazell (shooting, lots of shooting), but we aren’t sure what to expect from Pope who underwent cardiac surgery in the off-season to repair a congenital abnormality. Pope looked pretty good in some exhibition games, but we expect it will be a while before he gets back to the level where he was last year. A year ago, the Pirates won a tight game over the Big Red on the road. Don’t expect this year to be as close.
  • Princeton at #1 Duke, 5 PM on ESPNU – That’s right. We will be courtside for the opening game of Duke’s title defense. Nothing against the Tigers, but this should be one of those 40-50 point blowouts. Still, we will be interested to see how Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry fit into an already loaded perimeter attack for the Blue Devils that features Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
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Enes Can’t-er; NCAA Rules Him Ineligible

Posted by jstevrtc on November 11th, 2010

On the eve of Kentucky’s season opener against East Tennessee State, the NCAA has ruled Kentucky’s Enes Kanter as permanently ineligible to participate, claiming that he was paid more than the “necessary expenses” during his time with the Turkish club Fenerbahce two years ago.

The NCAA statement released earlier tonight explains that while Kanter “competed primarily for the club’s under-18 junior team, he did compete for the club’s senior team in 2008-09. According to facts agreed to by the university and the NCAA Eligibility Center, Kanter received $33,033 more than his expenses for the 2008-09 season.” In the NCAA’s eyes, this makes Kanter a professional basketball player.

Kanter and the Big Blue Nation Took One On the Chin Tonight

The issue here was not that Kanter played in games with professional players during his short time playing on the senior level at Fenerbahce. The NCAA statement notes that, “The new NCAA rule that allows prospective student-athletes to compete on teams with professionals while maintaining their amateur status prior to college applies,” but then says that Kanter simply received what the NCAA considers too much compensation for that season.

Obviously, Kentucky will appeal. Because the school agreed to all of the facts and figures involved in the NCAA’s process of making this decision, the appeal will likely center on reducing the harshness of the punishment and citing any remotely relevant precedents to that effect. Kanter can practice with UK until the appeals process is finished.

In the wake of this decision, new transfer Eloy Vargas (6’11, 250 lb.) and senior reserve Josh Harrellson (6’10, 275 lb.) take on greater importance for John Calipari’s second Wildcat squad. Kentucky could also conceivably employ a smaller lineup, using 6’8 freshman Terrence Jones in the middle and surrounding him with four guards, namely freshman sensation Brandon Knight, de facto team leader Darius Miller, slasher DeAndre Liggins, and Doron Lamb, another freshman who has started both of  UK’s exhibition games. We’ll find out soon enough, since the season opener is tomorrow night.

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RTC Conference Primers: #22 – Atlantic Sun Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on October 13th, 2010

Rush The Court is actively seeking a correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a correspondent, please contact us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

a sun

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Belmont (16-4)
  2. East Tennessee State (15-5)
  3. Lipscomb (13-7)
  4. Campbell (12-8)
  5. Jacksonville (11-9)
  6. North Florida (10-10)
  7. Mercer (10-10)
  8. USC-Upstate (7-13)
  9. Kennesaw State (6-14)
  10. Stetson (5-15)
  11. Florida Gulf Coast (5-15)

All-Conference Team

  • Markeith Cummings (F) – Kennesaw State (17.4 PPG and 6.1 RPG)
  • Adnan Hodzic (C) – Lipscomb (22.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG; last year’s A-Sun POY)
  • Mike Smith (G) – ETSU (15.3 PPG and 7.7 RPG as a sophomore; injured last year)
  • Josh Slater (G) – Lipscomb (17.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.2 APG)
  • Ian Clark (G) – Belmont (14.9 RPG and 3.3 RPG; last year’s A-Sun Freshman of the Year)

Adnan Hodzic: The dominant force in the Atlantic Sun (Credit: AtlanticSun.Org)

Sixth Man
Tommy Hubbard (F) – ETSU (13.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG)

Impact Newcomer

Fred Landers (F) – UNF. Normally we would go with Lester Wilson, a forward out of Knoxville who decided to stay in Tennessee when he signed with ETSU, but the glut of perimeter players on the Buccaneer roster will probably limit Wilson’s playing time. Landers won’t have such a problem at UNF where he should get plenty of playing time at power forward and should contribute immediately for a team with an anemic offense where their leading scorer only scored 9.0 PPG.

What You Need To Know

  • Last year the conference regular season championship was mess with four teams having identical 14-6 conference records. That kind of parity should not be an issue this year as it seems like two teams (Belmont and ETSU) have separated themselves from the rest of the field.
  • After responding surprisingly well to losing five seniors last season, Belmont returns a team that should be the dominant team in the conference for the next two to three seasons with only two seniors on this year’s roster. Clark should be the driving force behind their push to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. You might remember the Bruins from their last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 when they lost to #2 seed Duke by a single point in the opening round.
  • While the Bruins will be relying on underclassmen, the Buccaneers will be relying on a strong group of seniors led by Mike Smith, a guard who was injured last year after only four games. Many expected the Buccaneers to fall apart after losing Smith, but they rebounded to make win the Atlantic Sun Tournament and make it to the NCAA Tournament before losing to #1 seeded Kentucky.
  • If you are looking for a sleeper, keep an eye on Lipscomb who could be a threat with what might be the best 1-2 punch in the conference with Hodzic and Slater. If the Bisons are going to surprise Belmont and ETSU, those two will need help from Jordan Burgason (12.8 PPG) and Brandon Brown (10.4 PPG).

Predicted Champ

Belmont (NCAA Seed: #14). With their solid performance in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year last year, Rick Byrd should expect to make a trip back to the NCAA Tournament this year if they are able to overcome ETSU and Lipscomb.  Even though the Bruins will rely heavily on Clark and Mick Hedgepeth (11.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG), they will need to get production out of Scott Saunders and Jon House on the inside and  steady perimeter play from Drew Hanlen, Jonny Rice, and Jordan Campbell to win the Atlantic Sun.

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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Opening Round Questions Still Unanswered

Posted by jstevrtc on July 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee met this week in Chicago, and the biggest item on their agenda was to decide on the format of the new 68-team tournament. In deciding to expand from the 65-team tournament, which has been the rule for the last ten years, to 68 teams in time for the 2011 tournament, the NCAA has committed itself to four opening round games.  The questions of who will play in those games, however, and where those games will take place, among other logistical issues, are still to be decided. While it doesn’t look like a decision will be announced this week, outgoing committee chairperson and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has spelled out three possible options for who will compete in the opening round games:

  1. The teams that would be the 16th and 17th seeds in a bracket, or those teams seeded at spots 61 through 68 in the overall field — likely teams from the historically one-bid conferences,
  2. The last eight non-automatic qualifiers or the teams generally referred to as bubble teams — generally teams from a mixture of BCS leagues and mid-major conferences, or
  3. Some combination of the first two options, with the most talked-about scenario being the last four bubble teams playing in a couple of games and the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers (seeds 65-68) playing in the other two.

While it is still within the realm of reason that additional options could arise (maybe the lowest seeded automatic qualifiers each match up against one of the bubble teams), the answer will likely be one of the three options above. And, frankly, option three is a bit of a copout, so the decision between options one and two comes down to something of a battle between the big power conferences and the less influential conferences that nonetheless make up the bulk of Division I. And neither side wants to play in those games.

Should a conference champ be sent to an opening-rounder and have a better chance to make more money, or should their performance be rewarded with a spot in the main draw?

“I think that if you are an automatic qualifier, you should not be in a play-in game,” said Winthrop head coach Randy Peele when we talked with him earlier this week, and he’s had experience with the opening round game as the coach at a school that has now appeared in two opening round tournament games, including last season’s loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Peele’s sentiment was echoed by Michael White, the Associate Athletic Director for Communications at East Tennessee State University. “For teams like ours that come out of a league with one tournament bid, and to have to earn it by winning our conference tournament, we don’t want to have to be sent to a play-in game.”

Even the term “play-in game,” used in reference to the single opening round game played in Dayton for the last ten years, is a divisive one. The NCAA has gone to great lengths to make sure that game was referred to as the “opening round game,” despite it commonly being referred to by fans and media as the play-in game. “The way the NCAA markets the first day is critical,” said ETSU’s head coach Murry Bartow. “They shouldn’t be marketed as play-in games, where you’re not even in the tournament until you win that game.”

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: First Round 03.18.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 18th, 2010

Best first flight of games ever?  It just might be.  Right now the Selection Committee are looking like a bunch of geniuses.  We have confidence in the second flight of games bringing some excitement, too.  We popped for the DirecTV package so we’ll be monitoring every game:

  • Ohio vs Georgetown
  • East Tennessee State vs Kentucky
  • Northern Iowa vs UNLV
  • Washington vs Marquette
  • San Diego State vs Tennessee
  • Wake Forest vs Texas
  • Lehigh vs Kansas
  • Montana vs New Mexico

After what we saw this afternoon, we suggest you join us for our live-blogging feature this evening.  Get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and by all means let us know in the comments section what you’re watching and how you’re celebrating this unofficial national holiday.  We’ll start at around 7 PM ET.  See you there!

7:00: That’s OK Hemogoblin.  Though scheduling a fantasy baseball draft TODAY??  Hmmm…  Anyway, Butler is polishing off UTEP in a game that is going to screw up a lot of brackets.  UTEP was a popular upset pick for the first round, and sometimes beyond.  Frankly, I expected more from Arnett Moutrie at the forward spot.  Zero points today.

7:30: OK, sorry there, folks.  Had a quick  dinner break, which I tried to time right so it would happen during the single-game interval.  Didn’t hit it.  We haven’t missed much.  Kentucky has started pretty hot against ETSU and UNLV has taken an early lead over Northern Iowa.

7:52: Kentucky is shooting 70% to start this game.  YEESH.  They’re already up 41-16 against ETSU.  At what point do you pull the starters to rest for the second game against either Wake or Texas?

7:58: Anyone want to wake up Georgetown?  The Armon Bassett/D.J. Cooper tandem has been quite effective for the Bobcats, so far a combined 6-12 and 15 of Ohio U.’s 33 points.

8:02: Goodness.  John Wall already has seven assists.  Let’s see what else is on…

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RTC Bracketology Seed Update: 03.14.10

Posted by zhayes9 on March 14th, 2010

From today until Selection Sunday, keep checking Rush the Court for updates on who’s in, who’s out and seeding.

UPDATES ALL DAY TODAY. FINAL BRACKET REVEALED JUST BEFORE 6 PM ET.

(Note: each of the four teams in one seed grouping is listed in pecking order in terms of who is closer to moving up a seed line. This is used to determine game location and matchups similar to Joe Lunardi’s S-Curve listing).

Also: play the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday challenge at NCAA.com to be your own Bracketologist.

Italics indicates conference leaders/champions.

Last update: 03/14, 3:50 PM ET.

#1 Seeds: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, West Virginia

#2 Seeds: Duke, Ohio State, Kansas State, Georgetown

#3 Seeds: New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Purdue

#4 Seeds: Baylor, Wisconsin, Temple, Tennessee

#5 Seeds: Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Michigan State, BYU

#6 Seeds: Maryland, Butler, Richmond, Xavier

#7 Seeds: Gonzaga, Northern Iowa, Texas, UNLV

#8 Seeds: Notre Dame, Marquette, Clemson, Oklahoma State

#9 Seeds: Florida State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Missouri

#10 Seeds: UTEP, Old Dominion, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State

#11 Seeds: Wake Forest, Washington, California, Siena

#12 Seeds: Utah State, Minnesota, Cornell, Illinois

#13 Seeds: Murray State, New Mexico State, Oakland, Houston

#14 Seeds: Wofford, Sam Houston State, Ohio, Montana

#15 Seeds: Morgan State, UC-Santa Barbara, North Texas, Vermont

#16 Seeds: Robert Morris, East Tennessee State, Lehigh, Winthrop, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Last Four In: California, Utah State, Minnesota, Illinois

Last Four Out: Mississippi State, Florida, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall

Bids per conference: Big East (8), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (6), ACC (5), Mountain West (4), SEC (3), Atlantic 10 (3), Pac-10 (2), West Coast (2), WAC (2), C-USA (2).

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire.  By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’  The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday.  But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning.  Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky?  Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home?  There are so many questions unanswered still remaining.  Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day.  Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.

  • Noon – West Virginia @ Villanova on CBS – RTC Live
  • Noon - Texas A&M @ Oklahoma on ESPN
  • Noon – Cincinnati @ Georgetown on ESPN360
  • 1 pm – Tulsa @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 1:30 pm – Maryland @ Virginia on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – Kansas @ Missouri on CBS
  • 2 pm – Syracuse @ Louisville on ESPN
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – UConn @ USF on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt on ESPN2
  • 4 pm- UCLA @ Arizona State on CBS
  • 4 pm – Texas @ Baylor on ESPN
  • 4 pm – Big South Championship: Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina on ESPN2
  • 4 pm – Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech on ESPN360
  • 6 pm – Tennessee @ Mississippi State on ESPN
  • 6 pm – Atlantic Sun Championship: ETSU @ Mercer on ESPN2
  • 8 pm – OVC Championship: Murray State vs. Morehead State on ESPN2
  • 9 pm – UNC @ Duke on ESPN
  • 9 pm – New Mexico State @ Utah State on ESPN360

We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.

11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.

11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?

11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?

11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.

11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.

11:40: Hey Lunardi. We had Zach Hayes on this over a month ago. This is why you don’t want a 96-team tournament. Also DeCourcy was right on expansion.

11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?

Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.

12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.

12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic Sun

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

Ryan Dunn in the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Current Standings

  1. Campbell (11-6, 6-2 A-Sun)
  2. East Tennessee State (10-9, 6-2 A-Sun)
  3. Mercer                                    (9-8, 5-2 A-Sun)
  4. Jacksonville (9-8, 6-3 A-Sun)
  5. Lipscomb                               (9-9, 6-3 A-Sun)
  6. Belmont (10-9, 5-4 A-Sun)
  7. North Florida (9-11, 4-6 A-Sun)
  8. USC Upstate                          (3-15, 3-6 A-Sun)
  9. Florida Gulf Coast (5-12, 2-6 A-Sun)
  10. Stetson                                    (4-12, 2-6 A-Sun)
  11. Kennesaw State (6-12, 1-6 A-Sun)

News and Notes

This could end up being one of the tightest races of any conference in America at the end of the year.  Six out of eleven teams are within two games of the league leaders.  Teams in the A-Sun play each other twice and we are just about one full time around.  Campbell’s Jonathan Rodriguez has now become the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,948 career points and still plenty of games left to separate himself.  He has also set the school record for career rebounding and is the current NCAA leader in career free throws made.

Remember, only six teams make it to the year end Atlantic Sun tournament.  USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast are still not eligible for post season play after completing their transition from Division II.  So that leaves nine eligible teams for post season play and means Stetson and Kennesaw State have some real work to do in order to make up ground and earn a berth.

  • Campbell was off to a sizzling 6-1 start to conference play and held a one game lead.  However, the Camels are in the middle of a brutal road swing with trips to traditional powers Belmont, Lipscomb, and East Tennessee State.  The Camels are already 0-1 on the trip with a loss to a struggling Belmont team.  Campbell is traditionally a struggling road team and they MUST win at least a game on this trip.
  • East Tennessee State always seems to be at the top of the league standings even with a slow start.  This year is no different as head coach Murray Bartow had to reload with newcomers and needed some guys to play a much bigger role than they have in the previous year.  Well, the Bucs are right there at the top and are fresh off a huge victory at Lipscomb just last night.  ETSU struggles at time from the perimeter but they are quick and athletic.
  • Mercer keeps on winning basketball games as they have now reeled off five straight W’s in conference play.  They have many weapons including two all-conference performers in James Florence and Daniel Emerson.  The Bears do play a handful of players over 30 minutes a game so lets see if that could have an effect on them at the end of the year.  But for now, the Bears look to be a top contender.
  • Jacksonville has now won six straight games after opening conference play 0-3.  The Dolphins were picked by most to win the league and they are very much in it.  The Dolphins are finally getting healthy and they are a scary team heading into the second half of conference play.  JU is fresh off a victory against cross town rival North Florida.
  • Lipscomb has been playing better of late — especially defensively —  but lost a little momentum after falling at home to ETSU just last night.  The Bisons must be careful because they have a quick turnaround with league-leading Campbell coming in on Saturday.  If Lipscomb were to lose that one, it could really set them back in the conference race.
  • Belmont is a team that plays extremely hard and they play a very sound style of basketball.  This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for head coach Rick Byrd but his team looks to be one that could be in the race at year’s end.  They have a very young backcourt, and, if they can continue to grow, they truly have a chance.  The Bruins have also gained some momentum after upsetting Campbell at home last night.
  • North Florida is a fun team to follow and it should be interesting to see if the Ospreys can continue to win games and perhaps sneak into the conference tournament.  They have not played their best in the last week or so but they are still more than capable of sneaking up on a league heavyweight.  UNF is a team that plays extremely hard for new head coach Matthew Driscoll.

Key Upcoming Games

  • Campbell @ Lipscomb (1/23) – Two teams that are amongst the league leaders and could really shake up the conference standings.
  • ETSU @ Belmont (1/23) – Huge game for both teams as ETSU is looking to stay at the top, while Belmont is just trying to stay in the mix.
  • Lipscomb @ Belmont (1/26) – Round two of the “Battle of the Boulevard” as Lipscomb took round one, now Belmont gets a turn at home.
  • Campbell @ ETSU (1/27) – The two top teams in the league will do battle in Johnson City to complete the first rotation of conference play.
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