Big East M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 5th, 2012

  1. St. John’s 81-65 loss on the road at San Francisco may have seemed like just another non-conference game in preparation for the Big East gauntlet which kicks off in early January. To Steve Lavin, though, this game meant a whole lot more. Steve’s father Cap Lavin played guard at San Francisco in the early 1950s, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 1997. With his son’s trip out west, the school honored Lavin at halftime. San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kroner’s piece on this father-son relationship is an excellent read. Where many sporting parents may push their children towards athletics, Cap never put any pressure on Steve, but instead made sure that his career goal of becoming a basketball coach wasn’t him taking “the path of least resistance.” Steve’s relationship with Cap was also instrumental in helping him triumph in his recent bout with prostate cancer.
  2. The Big East Tournament has always been a big event for Connecticut faithful, and this spring’s tournament, with the impending departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh, promised to be even more meaningful… until, of course, UConn was banned from all postseason play for poor APR scores. School president Susan Herbst is still fighting the ruling, citing the school’s stronger, more recent APR scores as evidence that the program has learned and improved upon past academic failures. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs theorizes that if UConn wants to overcome the “chaos” that has befallen the program and be readmitted to the Big East Tournament — and on a larger scale, be seen as having a strong athletic department again — they need to quiet Jim Calhoun. As we discussed in yesterday’s Big East M5, Calhoun recently stated that he would “never say never” in ruling out a return to coaching. Jacobs believes that Calhoun’s thirst for attention, which doesn’t seem to have dissipated even after his very public and odd retirement, is undermining the program.
  3. While the Syracuse low-post trio of Rakeem Christmas, Dajuan Coleman, and Baye Moussa Keita have combined for a solid 18.2 points, 15.6 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game this season, Jim Boeheim still believes that this group is the one that must progress the most if the team wants to make a championship run this season. The Orange’s 2-3 zone has been especially active and long this season to the tune of 81 steals through six games, but their corresponding interior defense has been a bit weak at times. Boeheim is worried that a good mid-range jump shooter or a strong offensive big man could do some damage against his defense. Syracuse could also use a strong presence inside on offense when the shooting stroke from outside runs cold, as it did for stretches against Eastern Michigan on Monday.
  4. USF (the Big East one this time) seems to be gaining its sea legs after a rough few games to start the year, and are prepared to take on #23 Oklahoma State in Stillwater tonight. One can point to the improved health of Anthony Collins as one reason for the Bulls’ improved play. After missing a game against Stetson due to a lingering calf injury, Collins had one of his best games of the year against Georgia, scoring 17 points and adding 10 assists. A win in Stillwater would give USF a solid non-conference road win, and re-energize the thoughts of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth. After the Oklahoma State game, USF has a 13-day break to focus on practice and schoolwork, so look for the Bulls to come out with a very strong effort knowing that rest is on the way.
  5. Pittsburgh could get back junior swingman Trey Zeigler as early as tonight for the Panthers’ City Game against Duquesne. Zeigler, who transferred from Central Michigan after his father Ernie was fired as head coach, was charged with a DUI on November 26 and was suspended indefinitely from the team. The scoring guard was a highly recruited player coming out of high school and had averaged 6.2 points per game for Pitt before his suspension — during his two years with the Chippewas, he averaged around 16 points per game so he could provide a great offensive spark for the Panthers if he gets back into a rhythm.
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2012

Ethan Back is the MAC correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • Will Ohio Be Able to Reach the Sweet Sixteen Again? After an extremely successful season that ended in an overtime loss in the Sweet Sixteen against ACC power North Carolina, Ohio will look to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bobcats have a lot of hype to live up to, as they return all of their significant contributors from a season ago, including standouts D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Not all of the personnel returns from a season ago, however, with former head coach John Groce now at Illinois, but new head coach Jim Christian will look to keep momentum going.

Ohio’s D.J. Cooper Hopes To Follow One Head-Turning Season With Another. (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

  • Toledo’s Postseason Ban: Toledo has a very solid core intact from the 2011-12 season, so it’s a real shame that the Rockets won’t be able to qualify for postseason play due to its academic problems. Luckily for the Rockets, two of its best players (Rian Pearson and Julius Brown) are underclassmen, so they’ll still get a chance to win the MAC Tournament in future years, assuming they stay in school beyond the 2012-13 season.
  • East vs. West: Last season, the East had five teams finish with a winning record, whereas the West had a measly one. This clear imbalance within the MAC doesn’t have serious ramifications, as the conference tournament seeds are not based on division, but for the sake of self-respect, the West will hope to have a better season than it did last year.
  • No More Zeiglers: Winning games hasn’t been an easy task for Central Michigan these past two seasons, as its 12-20 conference record during that span indicates. It won’t be any easier this year after the firing of head coach Ernie Zeigler led to the transfer of his son and the Chippewas’ leading scorer Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh. New head coach Keno Davis brings great experience to the program, but his first season on the job will likely be a rough one.

Reader’s Take I

Read the rest of this entry »

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Trey Zeigler Is Heading To Pittsburgh

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2012

One of the problems with package deals is that sometimes when you let go of the bait you also lose the fish you lured in. Central Michigan found this out when they fired Ernie Zeigler last month and soon after his son Trey Zeigler sought a release from his scholarship that was granted. Trey, who you may remember was much like Ray McCallum in that he chose to play at a lower-tier school to be coached by his father rather than go to one of a dozen or so big-name programs that were recruiting him (in Ray’s case his eventual destination was Detroit). As those of you who follow recruiting are aware, Trey was a highly rated recruit who had plenty of suitors in the so-called power conferences. Although he did not dominate the MAC like some might expect such a highly rated prospect to do, Trey did put up very solid numbers in his two seasons at Central Michigan.

Trey Zeigler Should Play A Major Role At Pittsburgh (Credit: Andrew Kuhn/CM-Life.com)

His announcement that he would be transferring set off a heated recruiting battle and earlier this afternoon he announced that he would be transferring to Pittsburgh. The move should be a big boost for the Panthers who are coming off the worst season in Jamie Dixon‘s nine years at the school and the first that the team failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The question of when Trey will be eligible to play is still up in the air as he has requested a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play next year. We are not sure what the basis of his waiver is, but we hope it is not “My father got fired” because we cannot imagine the NCAA signing off on that waiver. If he is able to play next season, he and Travon Woodall would immediately become one of the best starting backcourts in the Big East if not America. If he has to sit out he would join a talented, but largely unproven set of guards and form the nucleus of the next stage of Dixon’s tenure at Pittsburgh.

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Morning Five: The National Holiday Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2012

  1. We have tried to go easy on the NCAA Tournament links in our Morning Five this week, but we cannot contain ourselves any more because it is here. It is finally here. We all love every game of college basketball, but now we are literally at the win or go home stage. Obviously some people can argue that a large part of Conference Championship Week is similar particularly for smaller conferences and there was the “First Four”, which we still have a tough time acknowledging being the Internet traditionalists that we are. For those of you who are still struggling to picking through the regions, you should take a look at Pat Forde’s best case/worst case scenarios for the different regions: East, South, Midwest, and West.
  2. If you are looking for something a little more graphical, check out the work that John Ezekowitz and Luke Winn put together doing a “Survival Analysis” that looks at the results from head-to-head matchups this season and attempts to predict a champion. If you are looking for more detail on how this was created, check out John’s explanation, and if you are looking for his straightforward #1-68 ranking that is also available. Just a fair warning the latter two links are a little heavy on the statistical analysis so if you are not into that type of thing you may mind up with a headache trying to figure out what he is saying.
  3. On the surface, the decision by Western Michigan to fire Ernie Zeigler may not appear to be a big one, but it could have significant consequences for a major Division I team. As Ryan Greene points out, Ernie’s son Trey will probably choose to transfer, which could trigger a heated recruiting battle. Coming out of high school, Trey was one of the most coveted recruits in the country, but much like the McCallums he decided on a father-son pairing rather than going to a big-name program. Now with the former no longer directly available Trey has a difficult decision to make. He could stay at the school, which seems unlikely based on the tweets he has sent out (like this one, which could be interpreted several different ways). One of the more interesting possibilities is a father-son package deal. Based on Ernie’s record, 75-111 in six seasons, he probably will not get a good head coaching job right away. One thing he could get is an assistant coaching job. Perhaps one from his former boss (at both Pittsburgh and UCLA) and current UCLA coach Ben Howland, who could use some more talent in the near future. Just something to keep an eye on.
  4. We have our first significant early entry of the season as Maalik Wayns has decided put his name in the NBA Draft. Under the new rules, the Villanova junior, who did not hire an agent, has until April 10 to remove his name from consideration, which is significantly earlier than in previous year. Wayns is a nice player, but we would be shocked if he stayed in the Draft since he is at best a late second round pick and Jay Wright would be able to put him in touch with people who can give Wayns a realistic appraisal. For now, Wayns can get evaluation and feedback from NBA teams and hopefully learn things that will make him a better player as a senior. Of course, if he decides to stay in the NBA Draft…
  5. Based on a ruling yesterday by the NCAA, Durand Scott‘s season is over, but his career at Miami may not be. The junior guard, who was suspended right before the team’s ACC Tournament game against FSU, had his eligibility reinstated by the NCAA, but will have to sit out an additional five gamesm. The six-game suspension would be carried over to next season based on how many games Scott misses from Miami’s NIT appearance this season. In addition to the games he will miss, the NCAA is requiring Scott to pay back the value of the benefits he received to a charity.
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RTC Conference Primers: #18 – Mid-American Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on October 18th, 2011

This conference primer was prepared by the RTC staff. If you are knowledgeable about the MAC and have an interest in becoming the correspondent for this league, please e-mail us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • The Freshman Grow Up. After having 15 freshman start for MAC teams last year, this year promises a more balanced, less chaotic version of basketball as many of those freshmen will have matured (although we know that is not always the case). With increased experience, the MAC promises to offer a higher quality of basketball with less inconsistency across its teams. It also bodes well for the conference’s futures as many of these players are expected to be four-year players so even if the conference is not loaded this year it has the potential to be very strong in another year or two.
  • Three Team Battle at the Top. While the MAC has traditionally been a wild conference, there appears to be three teams this year – Akron, Kent State, and Western Michigan – as the class of the conference. While the Zips and Golden Flashes return quite a bit of experience and waged a hard-fought game in the conference tournament finals that was decided on a last second block, the Broncos field a young team with plenty of potential. They are probably a step below the other two teams, but this trio is most likely several levels above the rest of the conference.

Can Akron Do It Again? (AP/M. Duncan)

  • Can the MAC Get an At-Large? As mentioned earlier, the conference has traditionally been a wild one, which means that the team that wins the regular season will not necessarily win the conference tournament (Kent State the past two years). The question is whether a team from the MAC can establish a strong enough regular season resume to earn an NCAA at-large bid. The truth is that we aren’t sure, but at least the three teams already highlighted are trying to play good non-conference schedules, which should boost their strength of schedule come Selection Sunday. Western Michigan has the toughest schedule with a home game against Temple (November 17), at Purdue (November 23), at Gonzaga (November 26 listed as a “neutral site” game in Spokane), at Detroit (December 8), at Oakland (December 23), and at Duke (December 30). Akron has games at Mississippi State (November 9), home against Detroit (November 26), at West Virginia (November 28), and at home against Virginia Commonwealth (December 29). Kent State isn’t quite as impressive, but still has games at West Virginia (November 15) and at Utah State (November 22).
  • How Bad Will Toledo Be? We usually don’t like kicking a team when it is down, but the Rockets might end up having one of the worst teams in Division I this year. Last year they were 4-28 overall and 1-15 in the conference while finishing 344th in Division I in scoring and that was before they had their scholarships cut from 13 to 10 due to poor APR scores and they lost their top returning scorer Malcolm Griffin and Hayden Humes to transfer and Justin Moss retired after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). So basically this team is going to be really, really bad.
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