Big 12 M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 29th, 2012

  1. Last night, Oklahoma traveled to play Oral Roberts for the first time since 1995. It wasn’t easy for the Sooners as they would have to overcome a 10-point deficit to win, 63-62. Freshman Buddy Hield scored all 11 of his points in the second half while Steven Pledger hit the game-winning bucket with 1:12 left. This game was chock full of noteworthy trivia. OU’s win ended Oral Roberts’ 24-game winning streak at the Mabee Center dating back to 2010 and head coach Lon Kruger won his 499th game as a collegiate coach. Man, how good is basketball in the state of Oklahoma right now?
  2. West Virginia has had a real bad start to its season as currently the only Big 12 team with a losing record. They could really use a gimme game and coming to the Mountaineers’ rescue was Virginia Military Institute. WVU took down VMI 94-69 in its home opener and their transfers took center stage. Juwan Staten led all scorers with 18 and was one of seven guys to score in double figures for WVU despite playing a lighter rotation due to injuries. Matt Humphrey was held out of the game with what Bob Huggins calls a “tweaked shoulder.” Meanwhile, Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge both suffered ankle injuries early and did not return. Nothing is known about their severity. The important thing, WVU fans, is that your ‘Eers aren’t deceiving you: West Virginia won a basketball game!
  3. By now you know the Big 12’s flirtation with Louisville was just that — flirting — and the Cardinals are officially joining the ACC. The always-opinionated coach at Kansas, Bill Self, threw in his two cents on the changing landscape of conference affiliation and what it means for the Big 12 going forward. The fact of the matter is the Big 12 doesn’t need to expand. They have their $2.6 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox signed for the next 13 years, and as far as deals go for 10-team leagues, this is the best they could have gotten. Schools would see expanding as cutting further into each school’s money pie. But I’d like to see them expand in order to stay competitive with bigger leagues like the B1G and the ACC. Whatever the Big 12 does, expand or keep the status quo, they can’t go wrong as long as nobody else jumps ship.
  4. After learning about Rodney McGruder’s struggles in the new Kansas State offense after the NIT Tip-Off, he’s singing a different tune now. McGruder says he’s feeling a comfort level in Bruce Weber’s motion offense after sitting down with coaches and getting to the root of his problem. Teammate Will Spradling said after Wednesday’s practice that during their scrimmage, “he [McGruder] kind of took over as the scorer he was last year. I think he’s getting more comfortable and confident.” Once everyone, not just McGruder, gets a more firm grip on the offense, this Kansas State team will be a dangerous one.
  5. The Texas Longhorns have gotten off to a less than ideal start to the season with Myck Kabongo sidelined, their struggles out in Maui, and their stale, turnover-prone offense. But one bright spot on the team has been the growth of Jonathan Holmes as a player from a year ago. He’s tied for the lead in the conference in rebounds per game (9.2 RPG) and Holmes had a nice stat line vs Sam Houston State: 11 points, eight boards, two blocks, two steals in a season-high 30 minutes of action. Rick Barnes went as far as saying, “You can count on him [Holmes] every night.” Hop on the Holmes bandwagon while there’s still room.
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Is West Virginia This Bad, Or Is Its 1-3 Record a Product of Scheduling?

Posted by dnspewak on November 27th, 2012

West Virginia is not the worst team in the Big 12. Far from it. And yet there’s no team in the league right now with a worse record than the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their first four games and own a sole victory against Marist in the Old Spice Classic’s consolation bracket (hey, that’s more than Vanderbilt can brag about). If not for that one win, it’d have been fair to call the tournament in Orlando a Thanksgiving disaster for Bob Huggins‘ team, especially on the heels of that embarrassing season-opening loss to Gonzaga by, what was it, 700 points?

West Virginia Is Enduring an Early Losing Skid

With three transfers playing major minutes and a remade roster after losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, nobody expected November and December to be easy for West Virginia. You’ll also hardly see a power-conference team play a schedule like this in the opening weeks of the season. It’s no secret how good Gonzaga or Davidson are, and Oklahoma’s no slouch this season either. Still, we expected to see Huggins’ team embody a completely different mentality. He openly admitted after bowing out early in last season’s NCAA Tournament that he had never coached such a poor defensive team. That was after a blowout loss to those same Zags — and sure enough, seven months later, it happened again in the 2012-13 season opener. Different team, but more of the same issues (GU hit 52% from the floor including nine threes).

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West Virginia’s New Season Begins How the Old One Ended

Posted by dnspewak on November 13th, 2012

Well, that seemed oddly familiar. Seven months after Gonzaga ended West Virginia‘s 2011-12 season in the most embarrassing of fashions in a 77-54 NCAA Tournament beatdown, the new-look Mountaineers hardly looked new at all. They unraveled in the first few minutes of their season opener — also the first game on ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon slate — and wallowed to an 84-50 loss Monday night (or was it Tuesday morning)?

Gonzaga Took It Right to the Mountaineers… Again (Jed Conklin — AP)

It was bad. Real bad, across the board. Before anybody hopped up on coffee and Five Hour Energy could blink an eye, Gonzaga led 17-2. That lead got to 27 at halftime, and, as Billy Packer once said a little bit prematurely in a certain Final Four game, “this game is ovah” at that point. Players were visibly frustrated, body language was poor and coach Bob Huggins seemed to have no answers. Offensively, his team was a mess. That’s understandable after losing Kevin Jones and, probably more evidently on Monday night, point guard Truck Bryant. Dayton transfer Juwan Staten and Jabarie Hinds combined for just two assists against five turnovers, and the team totaled only eight overall assists. Aaric Murray, a newcomer from La Salle with major pro potential, scored 14 points in his debut, but that hardly mattered. The Mountaineers couldn’t initiate any open looks, and they missed everything. We mean everything. Three-of-26 from three-point land is not very pretty to open the year. Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey, known for his perimeter shooting, finished 1-of-7. Hinds was 1-of-6. It didn’t help that the Bulldogs executed very well offensively after a rather sluggish start, as four Gonzaga starters finished in double figures.

And that’s all you really need to know about West Virginia’s season opener. Playing in unfamiliar territory in the state of Washington, the Mountaineers looked about as culturally shocked as humanly possible in The Kennel. The crowd was fierce, the place was amped and Huggins’ team did not respond well. It’s clear his reclamation project will take time. He has new guards to break in, a new centerpiece on offense in Murray and a lot of sophomores trying to adjust to new roles. You know Huggins will have this team in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament by February. Unfortunately, after this debacle, it’s fair to wonder whether Huggins’ program will ever get that swagger back on the defensive end and on the boards. It lost that identity a bit a year ago — especially against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament — and it certainly did not return today.

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Big 12 M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 8th, 2012

  1. With the election now in the rear-view mirror, Matt Norlander over at CBSSports.com wondered if the presidential race was decided by states with the best basketball programs. Norlander’s sample size is comprised of his site’s preseason top 26 because he felt it wouldn’t be as compelling if states like Alaska, Hawaii or Wyoming were put on a level playing field with say, Indiana and Kentucky. It was a close “race” between the number of red states and blue states but the electoral vote count will remind you of the results from Tuesday. It is also worth noting that each of the Big 12 teams in their top 26 are in red states. I’m just saying.
  2. USA Today Sports‘ Eric Prisbell and Nicole Auerbach give us a list of coaches with the most to prove this season and two of them are Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. While these coaches do have some work to do this year to justify their positions, they’re at different levels on the totem pole. Weber is in his first year of a new job while Ford is a bad season away from losing his job. The article also lists UConn’s Kevin Ollie as another coach with a lot of pressure this year, so if you’re going to list guys who have limited head coaching experience with limited time with which to work, Chris Walker of Texas Tech would be as good a candidate as any.
  3. We now know how long Oklahoma State forward Michael Cobbins will be sidelined. Travis Ford announced he’ll be out “about a month” after suffering an injury in Monday’s exhibition victory versus Ottawa University. Le’Bryan Nash threw an alley-oop pass to Cobbins but the pass went over his head and he fell on an Ottawa player. This, of course, is bad news for a coach already without two key pieces in his rotation — Phillip Jurick who is still recovering from an Achilles injury and J.P. Olukemi who is dealing with a knee injury. Guard Brian Williams, of course, is also out for the season. Get well, Cowboys.
  4. Tuesday night West Virginia dominated its exhibition game like any good program, beating Glenville State, 95-53, and head coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy. As a team the Mountaineers shot 50% from the floor, Deniz Kilicli dropped 19 in an efficient 8-for-10 shooting night, Aaric Murray had 13 points, nine boards, and two blocked shots, while Juwan Staten had 16 points, six dimes and zero turnovers. So what does Huggins think? “We’re going to look at how we didn’t run any offense.” Riiiight, coach. I see what you did there.
  5. Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale are two of ESPN’s most visible college basketball personalities and while they have had moments of disagreement over the years, they have finally agreed on one thing: Oklahoma and Lon Kruger are on the rise this season. I don’t like the fact that Kruger doesn’t stay at places very long but what Vitale says is true: He can flat-out coach. Take a good coach like Kruger, the returns of Steven Pledger and Romero Osby, the arrival of Amath M’Baye, an emerging point guard in Sam Grooms, and I believe they will hear Greg Gumbel call their name out on Selection Sunday.
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The Most Ridiculous Top 100 Player Ranking You’ve Ever Seen: Big 12 Style

Posted by dnspewak on October 17th, 2012

CBS Sports made an ambitious attempt earlier this month at ranking the top 100 players in college basketball, a fun but mostly impossible task good for heated debate and preseason discussion. At the risk of seeming unoriginal, it gave us the bright idea at this microsite to attempt something similar — a top 100 list of Big 12 players, which essentially spans almost every single player on all 10 rosters. Before you proceed, please understand this list is simply for fun. It’s not intended to be taken completely seriously, but it’s supposed to offer a guideline for the talent in this league from top to bottom. Direct all complaints to Danny Spewak (@dspewak), the genius who decided to write this. I’m looking forward to the criticism. 

1.    Pierre Jackson, Baylor (PG): The preseason Big 12 Player of the Year was, inexplicably, not a unanimous choice on the all-conference team, which is almost as bizarre as his coach not starting him until Big 12 play a year ago.

2.    Jeff Withey, Kansas (C): Considered replacing Jeff Withey with FakeJeffWithey at this spot because the latter has more Twitter followers.

3.    Rodney McGruder, Kansas State (G): If he ever finds himself nostalgic for a Frank Martin tirade, at least he’ll have this to look forward to during his senior year.

4.    Myck Kabongo, Texas (PG): Had his family not chosen to mis-spell his first name, he’d probably be number one on the list.

5.    Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (G): I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve read more than enough sappy articles about his intangibles to know he’s a Smart pick in the top five.

6.    Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State (G): Travis Ford just read the past two selections and had a heart attack.

7.   Isaiah Austin, Baylor (C): Unlike the Kabongos, the Austin family spelled its son’s first name correctly, something Isiah Thomas cannot brag about.

8.   Sam Grooms, Oklahoma (PG): Averaged more assists per game than Pierre Jackson, but since he doesn’t score much, he’s obviously a bad basketball player.

 9.  Aaric Murray, West Virginia (C): It won’t get you cool points to know he’s a good player now because he doesn’t play for La Salle anymore.

10.  Will Clyburn, Iowa State (F): Everybody wants him to be Royce White, but he doesn’t have a Mohawk, so that really won’t work.

Someone Decided The Big 12 Pre-Season POY Wasn’t Good Enough to Be First Team All-Big 12.

11. Rico Gathers, Baylor (F): The mere thought of lifting weights with this guy scares me.

12.  Ben McLemore, Kansas (G): His Rivals.com profile has as many stars (4) as the IKU constellation (I had to Google that).

13.  Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State (C): Averaged about two-and-a-half blocks per game, but he should play with a handicap because of his 7’6’’ wingspan.

14.  Elijah Johnson, Kansas (G): His first name is not mis-spelled, it’s just cool.

15.  Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (G): He scores the basketball.

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Big 12 Summer Update: West Virginia Mountaineers

Posted by dnspewak on August 1st, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Big 12 newcomer West Virginia. 

2011-12 Record: 19-14, 9-9 Big East

It’s been four months since Gonzaga beat the pulp out of West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, a debacle which prompted Bob Huggins to admonish his team as the “worst defensive team I’ve ever had in 30 years.” Much has changed since that fateful Thursday in March, however. For starters, the Mountaineers don’t even play in the same conference after making the official transition from the Big East to the Big 12 last month. More importantly, Huggins’ roster has changed significantly. Leading scorers Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant graduated, three other players transferred, and his top Class of 2012 recruit had to reclassify and enroll in prep school. After losing nine of its final 13 games a year ago, it’s a season of transition for Huggins and his Mountaineers. Headlined by three Division I transfers — a class which rivals Iowa State’s Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn as the best group of transfers in the Big 12 — Huggins must use this critical summer period to establish roles for not only his newcomers, but also a giant sophomore class ready to bear more responsibility on this team in 2012-13.

Huggins Was a Little Ticked Off After a Poor Finish Last Year

Summer Orientation: Let’s start with the most recent addition to West Virginia’s basketball program: Matt Humphrey. He’s not the most celebrated transfer on this squad (see below), but he joined the Mountaineers’ squad this summer after graduating from Boston College and using the graduate school loophole. Humphrey, who actually began his career by spending two years at Oregon, is somewhat of an enigma. Unlike Huggins’ other highly-coveted transfers, Humphrey brings a few question marks. Despite averaging double figures in scoring as a junior at Boston College, he was not an efficient offensive player, shooting 35 percent from the field and just 31 percent from three. Playing on a horrid team for a coach (Steve Donahue) who emphasizes the three-ball, Humphrey averaged more shot attempts than any other Eagle and did not appear to fit well with the offense. However, there’s a reason an established coach like Huggins saw something in Humphrey, and a closer look at his skill set reveals he may actually be a major coup for the Mountaineers as a late addition. That’s because he will not play the same role as he did at Boston College. He won’t need to lead the team in shot attempts — Huggins has plenty of other scoring options to lean on. All he needs to do is add depth and veteran savvy to a rather young group, and Huggins has already praised his ability to defend on the perimeter and disrupt opponents with his 6’5” frame. Matt Humphrey won’t need to be a savior, so all things considered, it’s a good pickup for Huggins.

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What To Make of the Big 12’s Big Monday Schedule

Posted by dnspewak on July 27th, 2012

Nine games. That’s all we know right now with regards to the 2012-13 Big 12 hoops schedule — nine games, all part of ESPN’s legendary Big Monday presentation. The four-letter network released the Big Monday schedule this week, meaning we now have five months to let the anticipation build. Want to feel a little giddy during the slow summer months? Take a look at the schedule below and imagine the possibilities: Bob Huggins returning to the one city in the world that cannot stand him, a Week One showdown between the league’s top dogs, and a prime time game at revitalized Iowa State.

Huggins Heads Back to K-State on Big Monday

Before we break down the schedule on a game-by-game basis, there are two noticeable absences from Big Monday this year. First, there’s no TCU. Not a major surprise, but it’s a sign the program clearly still has some work to do to gain relevance in the Big 12. Big Monday also won’t carry the Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It makes perfect sense, of course. Oklahoma hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2008-09, when Jeff Capel and Blake Griffin led the Sooners to the Elite Eight. And Oklahoma State lost 18 games a year ago and hasn’t danced the past two seasons. Plus, according to preseason projections — often a terrible barometer to use, by the way —  there won’t be many critics or even coaches within the league willing to choose either team to finish near the top of the league. So yes, it’s understandable that ESPN would not give a Big Monday slot to a Bedlam game. Perhaps both games will get prime Saturday slots. Who knows? Still, there’s a magic to Big Monday, and a rivalry as sacred as Bedlam deserves that magic. So that’s our plea to ESPN: give Bedlam a Big Monday slot, and give it to them every year. With that rant out of the way, here’s a look at all nine games:

  • January 14, Baylor at Kansas: A year ago, an undefeated Baylor team had a chance to make a statement to the Big 12 during a road trip to Lawrence. Win that game and Scott Drew’s program would have arrived. Predictably, the Bears crumbled under the wrath of Allen Fieldhouse. They fell behind immediately. Thomas Robinson wowed the crowd with one of his inhuman, highlight-reel dunks. It got ugly, and from there, Kansas never looked back. This game could represent a similar opportunity for Baylor to change the dynamics of the Big 12 race in 2013. It’s a lot of pressure to put on one game, but even in July, it’s obvious to see the importance of this first Big Monday game. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer Updates: Big East Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 11th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our Big East update comes from frequent RTC contributor Brian Otskey, co-author of Get to the Point.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines

  • Connecticut Revels In National Championship Glory: Connecticut’s storybook year continued on into the offseason as the Huskies were invited to the White House for an event with President Obama on May 16. The team presented the president with a #1 UConn jersey and posed for photographs after being lauded for their remarkable accomplishment. Connecticut made one of the most improbable runs ever en route to the third national championship in school history, all coming since 1999, going 23-0 outside of Big East regular season play. Nobody could have predicted the way last season unfolded and the NCAA Tournament as a whole was a microcosm of that. Connecticut’s national title made up for a lackluster performance by many of the record 11 Big East teams participating in the tournament. Only one other Big East team (Marquette) managed to make it to the second weekend’s Sweet 16. Life without Kemba Walker has begun in Storrs and while the Huskies will be among the 2011-12 Big East favorites, it’ll be very interesting to see who steps up and how the team performs without its warrior. Jeremy Lamb appears to be ready to take over but the way Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi handle their larger roles will be the difference between a team contending for a Big East title and one that finishes fourth or fifth.

Kemba & Co. Celebrated in Style (H-C/B.Hansen)

  • The Ed Cooley Era Begins In Friartown: After Keno Davis stumbled to an 18-36 Big East record over three seasons in Providence, the Friars desperately needed someone to revive their moribund program. Providence has made only two NCAA Tournaments since its 1997 appearance and the last one was eight seasons ago in 2003-04. Enter Ed Cooley, a Providence-born 41-year-old with the fire in his belly needed to succeed in arguably the toughest job in the Big East Conference. Cooley will instill a system of discipline and fundamentals with a special attention to defense, three attributes of successful programs that were sorely lacking under Davis. Cooley’s Fairfield team ranked #22 in the nation in defensive efficiency last season and he improved the Stags’ record each and every year he was there. Providence, a small Catholic school with hardly any recruiting base along with limited facilities and resources, is an incredibly difficult job even before you have to go up against bigger schools like Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh along with tradition-rich programs such as Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette. Cooley must spend his first season laying the foundation for longer term success. He won’t turn this program around overnight but more discipline on and off the court and hard work on the recruiting trail can turn Providence into a solid Big East competitor. We can’t think of many people better suited than Cooley to get the job done at Providence. While it will be a long and difficult process, brighter days are ahead for the Providence program with Ed Cooley at the helm.
  • Signs Of Life In The New York Area: New coach Steve Lavin and St. John’s brought the buzz back to the Big Apple last winter as the Red Storm earned its first NCAA bid in nine seasons. “Lavinwood” has moved east, but St. John’s now enters a year full of mixed feelings. Cautious optimism as well as uncertainty rules the day with nine new faces, part of the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class, making their way to Queens in 2011-12. Malik Stith is the only returnee of note after Dwayne Polee, II, decided to transfer closer to home at San Diego State. St. John’s may be the most unpredictable team in the Big East entering this season. The potential exists for a terrific year if Lavin can mold all this raw talent into a cohesive unit capable of playing with any team in the conference. However, issues with young players, commonly involving playing time and egos, are also very possible and it takes only one incident to destroy the locker room and wreck the season. The Johnnies have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament again, but Lavin will have to totally adjust his approach to make that happen. With hardly any experience on the roster, he can’t simply roll the ball out and hope for the best. This season will be the biggest test of Lavin’s coaching career on the court, but he faced an even more difficult challenge last year, coaching the entire season with prostate cancer while keeping it a secret until this spring. Turning St. John’s around with that constantly in the back of his mind is an a commendable achievement and we obviously wish Coach Lavin the best of luck fighting this awful disease.
  • Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, Mike Rice and Rutgers appear to be building a program to be reckoned with down the road. The Scarlet Knights have been a dormant program for 20 years, never once enjoying a winning season in any of its 16 years as a Big East member. That may be about to change, although it appears unlikely that Rutgers will crack the .500 mark in league play this season. The fiery Rice reeled in a top 25 recruiting class and now must build on a season of close calls and what-ifs. Rutgers was competitive last year, but could only manage five Big East victories. It’ll take time for the new players to adjust to the collegiate level but bigger and better things should be expected from Rutgers in the years to come. Rutgers, a large state school, has the capability of becoming a pretty good program. All it needs is a commitment from the administration, facility upgrades and great recruiting. Rice is taking care of the latter, now it’s time for the Rutgers brass to provide him with the resources needed to build a top flight program. Rutgers needs major facility upgrades (a RAC renovation has been talked about for over a year), but fundraising has been a major problem. With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie trying to get the state’s financial house in order, there is going to be a lot of resistance to an ambitious project such as this one at the state’s flagship university.

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Conference Report Card: Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.


Looking Back

2011 was business as usual it seems as two teams, Temple and Xavier, combined to represent the conference in the AP Poll for 11 of the poll’s 19 weeks. Three teams (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were invited to the NCAA for the fourth consecutive year with two advancing to the second round and one advancing to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. The steady progress, if not the deeper advancement, into the NCAA Tournament field should give the conference cause for celebration. If the A-10 has not gained ground, it certainly hasn’t lost any ground either. The conference beat its Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE – the number of wins earned in the NCAA versus the historic record for the assigned seed), 2.57, by winning a total of three games in tournament play. This year also marked the sixth consecutive postseason where the conference received at least one at-large bid. And for the second consecutive postseason, seven conference members in all (50% of the conference membership) played on after the final buzzer sounded in Atlantic City. The conference placed two teams (Dayton and Rhode Island) in the NIT and two others (Saint Louis and George Washington) in the CBI in 2010, with Dayton winning the NIT and Saint Louis losing in the CBI Finals to VCU. This postseason, only Dayton made the NIT, while Duquesne, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure were invited to the CBI. Unfortunately none of them advanced beyond the second round.

So why are conference observers edgy? Despite the “all steady” in the NCAA Tournament, teams from two other non-BCS conferences, Virginia Commonwealth of CAA and the Horizon League’s Butler were represented in the Final Four, with Butler advancing to Monday night for the second consecutive year. The Atlantic 10 has not sent a team to the Final Four since the Massachusetts squad of 1996, whose Final Four appearance was later vacated by the NCAA, and has had only one representative (Xavier in 2008) [ed. note: corrected]  in the Elite Eight since the 2004 Tournament when Saint Joseph’s lost to Oklahoma by two points, 64-62, in East Rutherford, New Jersey on the same weekend that Xavier was eliminated by Duke, 66-63, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Xavier’s Tu Holloway enjoyed a terrific season for the Musketeers. (credit: AP)

Final Ranking, Team-by-Team

  1. Richmond (28-8, 13-3) #12 seed: Coach Chris Mooney’s Spiders had several outstanding performances out of conference including their 65-54 win over Purdue (#3 seed NCAA), but those were negated by head-scratching losses to Iona aand Bucknell. The same held true in conference play, where wins over Dayton and Duquesnewere undermined by a home loss to Rhode Island early in conference play. The Spidersearned a #3 seed in the conference tournament where they knocked off #2 seed Temple that was dealing withinjuries and earned the conference’s automatic bid witha 67-54 win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals. The Spiders beat #5 seed Vanderbilt (69-66) and #13 seed Morehead State (65-48) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and a date with#1 seed Kansas. The ride ended witha 77-57 loss, but Mooney signed a contract extension which should keep him at Richmond for the foreseeable future. Mooney loses four key members of the squad this season, but returns 11 players, including two who started multiple games this season, for 2011-12. GRADE: A
  2. Temple (26-8, 14-2) #7 seed NCAA: The consensus favorite to win the conference regular season, the Owls stumbled in the Old Spice Classic, dropping two of their three games in Orlando. Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad dropped a third out of conference game to Villanova on the eve of conference play, but ran off three wins to start conference play. Back-to-back losses to Duquesne and Xavier put the Owls in second place in the conference, which is where they finished the regular season. Injuries sidelined sophomore Michael Eric, reducing an already short frontcourt rotation, for the last two weeks of the season. Scootie Randall also battled injuries as the season wound down, leaving Dunphy with a seven-man rotation for the Atlantic 10 tournament. A semifinal loss to Richmond ended Temple’s bid to earn the conference’s automatic bid for a third consecutive year, but the Owls secured a #7 seed to the NCAA Tournament and an in-state match-up with Penn State in the first round game, which they won 66-64 on a last second shot by Juan Fernandez. In the second round, they pushed #2 seed San Diego State to the limit before falling in double overtime. GRADE: B+ Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your Tivo: Selection Sunday Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We finally made it. It’s Selection Sunday and one of the best Championship Weeks ever played concludes today. I’d like to thank any reader out there who has read even just one of these daily features this season. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe even learned something you didn’t know about a team(s) from following Set Your Tivo. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

ACC Championship (at Greensboro, NC): #5 Duke vs. #6 North Carolina – 1 pm on ESPN (*****)

Barnes and the Heels Could Snag a 1-Seed Later Today With a Win

The greatest rivalry in college basketball for the third time this year on the last day of the season? Sign me up. In an ACC year full of mediocrity, the two top dogs stepped up and have successfully found their way to the title game today. As you know, these teams split the regular season series with each winning on their home floor. The rubber match will be in Greensboro today, about an hour west of each campus and right in the heart of Tobacco Road.

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Atlantic 10 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. With the A-10 Championship tipping off Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s preview and regular season wrap-up.

Postseason Preview

Among the first round games, all played at the campus of the higher seed, the strongest upset candidate is the #8/#9 (of course!) game between #8 host Massachusetts and #9 Dayton. The Flyers have not traveled well this season, accumulating a -0.049 net efficiency in games not played at the UD Arena, but a log5 calculation projects a Dayton win (67%-32% probability). Using overall (unadjusted) offensive and defensive efficiencies, this looks like a close game, +/- 3 points in favor of Dayton. For the other three first round games, the order of probability of an upset is:

  • #6 Rhode Island/#11 St. Louis (50.2-49.7)
  • #7 St. Bonaventure/#10 La Salle (58-42)
  • #5 George Washington/#12 Saint Joseph’s (66-33)

The Xavier/Duquesne side of the bracket looks vulnerable to either a Dayton run or a Duquesne run, though the Dukes, new to the dynamics of a bye seed, may fumble their quarter-final game against (most likely) George Washington. Dayton, a squad that plays inconsistently away from the UD Arena, has nevertheless lost twice to rival Xavier, by margins of five and four points. It is very difficult to beat a closely played rival a third time in the same season. Lacking length in the front court has proven to be a problem lately for the Dukes, but over a short duration tournament like the A-10, it is possible that a series of opponents will become caught up in a pace set by the Dukes and fail to properly exploit Duquesne’s vulnerability. I do not, however, see that as a problem for Xavier, an extremely well managed and prepared team and program.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 16th, 2011

Joseph Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

A Look Back

Net Efficiencies, end of season honors: Net efficiencies through Monday of this week (2/14/2011) give us a better sense of the conference race than the won-loss standings. Though Duquesne drops to fourth place in the conference standings, the Dukes have dominated enough games to maintain their spot just below Xavier. Temple and Richmond follow, with both maintaining positive net efficiencies.

Xavier took sole ownership of first place Sunday with their win over Duquesne. The Musketeers’ conference SOS (see above) confirms their fans have no need to credit the conference schedule maker with an assist on their ascension. The Musketeers are back!

One of the developing oddities of late is the number of teams with negative net efficiencies — with a full ten teams logging negative nets through last Sunday. A 50/50 split would be unusual, but a 30/70 split is a bit unusual and a development that should rebalance over the next two weeks. The split however, does not bode well for postseason prospects. Consensus bracketology has the conference with three “solid ins” right now (Xavier, Duquesne and Temple), and Richmond “with work to do.”

With POY handouts  and All-Conference Team awards less than a month away, it is time to look at who has been on the conference radar all season. The Player of the Year will most likely come from the list below — I have noted the number of times the player has been cited as Player of the Week and the number of times the player has made the conference Honor Roll.

Someone not named Tu Holloway will have to put on a major push through the end of the month to overtake the Xavier guard for Player of the Year honors. Of the most like candidates (most are shown in the table), the most likely candidate is Justin Harper, Richmond’s talented #4 player, possibly Temple’s Lavoy Allen or Ramone Moore, or if Rhode Island has the kind of February that St. Louis had last season, maybe Delroy James finds his way into the conversation. But let’s be honest, for Rhode Island to have that kind of February, James would have to play like the Player of the Year. I believe the voters tend to look among the conference contenders for the Player of the Year contenders, which eliminates Chris Wright (Dayton), Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Chris Gaston (Fordham) and Aaric Murray (La Salle). All four (and James and Harper) are however, along with James, Moore, Allen, Chris Wright and Duquesne’s Bill Clark, well in the mix for All-Conference Teams. Those not named to the first team will no doubt make the second team.

Rookie of the Year honors appear to be a little tighter, with contenders coming from Saint Joseph‘s, Dayton, La Salle and George Washington. Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell (see table above) is the clear favorite right now, but how he fares with the voters may well be tied to how strongly the Dukes finish out the regular season. The voters may be less inclined to pin conference-contender responsibilities on a freshman/transfer, so Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Namanja Mikic (George Washington) should not be handicapped when compared to McConnell. There are two more rounds of weekly citations and a strong closing by Saint Joseph’s or George Washington may scramble this race.

Power Rankings

The top team is Xavier. The Muskies settled it on the floor of the Consol Arena Sunday with a comfortable win over Duquesne. Duquesne dropped to #4 in the conference “record rankings”. Oddly the bottom spot was also settled on the court, also on Sunday and also with the host taking the loss. Saint Joseph’s will now battle with Charlotte for the last spot in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament. Rhode Island also had a good week, while Dayton did not. And those developments are also reflected in the conference rankings and this week’s power rankings.

1. Xavier (18-6, 9-1)

Last Week: 2/8 @Georgia 65-57, 1/13 @Duquesne 71-63

Next Week: 2/16 @Saint Joseph’s, 2/19 vs. Fordham

After a start to the season that included injuries, academics and unexpected losses, the Musketeers have put them back at the top of the conference and into the NCAAs. Xavier has been gaining national notice over the last half of January, and whispers of Chris Mack for conference coach of the year seemed justified with their comfortable win over Duquesne Sunday. Tu Holloway earned an Honor Roll citation for averaging double digit scoring over the course of the two road games.

The Duquesne game was a classic first half/second half struggle. The home team took a narrow one point lead into the locker room, but Xavier, the larger and more physical team, slowed down the pace (36 possessions was where Duquesne wanted to play) to a more manageable 33 possessions, and took control of the defensive boards. Duquesne had a huge 31-23 FGA advantage in the first half, complements of some terrific offensive board work. The Musketeers shut down the defensive boards, limiting the Dukes to a skimpy 20% rebounding rate of their misses in the second half. Neither team overwhelmed the opponent with an offensive blitz, but by limiting second chance opportunities, Xavier turned the game into a series of one-and-done possessions. And that was a game where their superior conversion abilities could prevail. Coach Mack’s squad has light duty this week — games with Saint Joseph’s and Fordham. No slip-ups, guys.

2. Duquesne (16-7, 8-2)

Last Week: 2/13 vs. Xavier 63-71

Next Week: 2/16 @Massachusetts, 2/19 @Dayton

The Dukes had another 1-1 week, which this time dropped them back to #4 in the conference standings, though they maintain their #2 spot in these power rankings. Ron Everhart‘s charges have two road games this week, coming off a loss to Xavier, this could be a rougher trip than anticipated. Beware of a dangerous Dayton club.

3. Temple (19-5, 9-2)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Fordham 77-66, 2/12 @Dayton 75-63

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Richmond, 2/19 vs. Saint Joseph’s

It was Lavoy Allen’s turn, as the injury bug took a bite out of the senior forward, forcing him to the bench for Saturday’s game versus Dayton. Ramone Moore stepped up and earned his sixth Honor Roll citation last week as he averaged 24.0 points and 5.0 rebounds over the week. Moore snagged nine rebounds in the Owls’ win over Dayton. Temple has a showdown with Richmond scheduled for Thursday night. The winner should draw at least the #3 seed for the conference tournament in Atlantic City next month.

4. Richmond (20-6, 9-2)

Last Week: 2/9 @George Washington 69-65, 2/12 vs. Saint Louis 64-52

Next Week: 2/16 @Temple, 2/19 vs. St. Bonaventure

The Spiders put some distance between the elites and the middle teams as they posted another 2-0 week complements from two middle-of-the-conference teams. Justin Harper earned his second Player of the Week citation for as he averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in Richmond’s two games last week. Coach Chris Mooney and Company take a trip up to Philadelphia for a mini-showdown on Wednesday, then returns home to host the Bonnies on Saturday.

5. Rhode Island (16-9, 7-4)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Dayton 67-53, 2/12 vs. Charlotte 71-70 OT

Next Week: 2/19 vs. Massachusetts

Rhode Island demolished a struggling Dayton team Wednesday to take over fifth place in the conference standings, and hung on to beat Charlotte on Saturday in overtime. Too little too late? Perhaps for the NCAAs, a number of solid conference wins will not make the Selection Committee forget losses to Quinnipiac and a route at the hands of Florida. Finish solidly and another round in the NITs awaits. Will that be enough for coach Jim Baron? The Runnin’ Rams face regional rival (and conference mate) Massachusetts Saturday in one of their three conference mirror games.

6. Dayton (17-9, 5-6)

Last Week: 2/9 @Rhode Island 53-67, 2/12 vs. Temple 63-75

Next Week: 2/16 @Charlotte, 2/19 vs. Duquesne

Final Judgement Week did not go well for the Flyers, as they went 0-2 against teams they really needed to beat to make any case for the post season. Rhode Island has a two game cushion in the loss column now, and Temple has another important win to stay within striking distance of Xavier. Dayton continues to drift downward in the conference standings. Dayton will play Charlotte in Charlotte Wednesday, then return to host Duquesne on Saturday.

7. George Washington (13-12, 6-5)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. Richmond 65-69, 2/13 @Massachusetts 59-51

Next Week: 2/19 @La Salle

The Colonials logged another 1-1 week, but gained an advantage over Massachusetts by winning their head-to-head. Freshman Namanja Mikic earned his second Honor Roll citation (to go with his Rookie of the Week citation) as he averaged 17.5 points for the week’s games. Karl Hobbs‘ team travels to Philadelphia to play La Salle Saturday in their only game this week.

8. St. Bonaventure (13-10, 5-5)

Last Week: 2/12 vs. La Salle 82-61

Next Week: 2/16 vs. St. Louis, 2/20 @Richmond

Coach Mike Schmidt’s Bonnies hammered a struggling La Salle squad by 21 points, earning Andrew Nicholson his ninth Honor Roll citation this season. The Bonnies host St. Louis Wednesday and travel to Richmond for a tilt with the Spiders Sunday.

9. Massachusetts (13-10, 5-5)

Last Week: 2/13 vs. George Washington 51-59

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Duquesne, 2/19 @Rhode Island

The Minutemen ran their losing streak to three last week with a loss to George Washington Sunday. Derek Kellogg‘s squad looks at two more tough opponents this week as the Minutemen host a two game home stand by hosting the Colonials next Sunday, then the Dukes the following Wednesday.

10.  La Salle (12-14, 4-7)

Last Week: 2/9 @Saint Louis 78-77, 2/12 @St. Bonaventure 61-82

Next Week: 2/19 vs. George Washington

The Explorers won their mini-series with St. Louis, pushing the Billikens another game down in the conference standings, but they have a two game gap to jump if they want to finish in the middle of the conference. Dr. John Giannini‘s squad has earned 16 citations for individual performances from the conference this season, one less than conference-leaders Duquesne and Dayton, two teams ensconced in the conference’s upper division. When working through this season, the La Salle staff and administration is going to have to reconcile the paradox of recognizable individual performances and mediocre team outcomes. La Salle has a single weekend game, as they host George Washington on Saturday. If the Explorers plan to mount a closing rush for an upper division finish this season, they have to start with George Washington.

11. Saint Louis (8-16, 3-8)

Last Week: 2/9 vs. La Salle 77-78, 2/12 @Richmond 52-64

Next Week: 2/16 @St. Bonaventure, 2/19 vs. Charlotte

The Billikens posted an 0-2 week, and run their losing streak to three. The Richmond game raised no eyebrows, but giving up a layup to Ruben Guillandeaux with 19 seconds left (and a one point lead) will hurt for awhile. Freshman Dwayne Evans earned his second Honor Roll citation of the season as he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds last week. Coach Rick Majerus‘ squad heads out to Olean, New York to play St. Bonaventure Wednesday, then returns to Chaifetz Arena to host Charlotte in a Saturday game.

12.     Charlotte (10-13, 2-7)

Last Week: 2/12 @Rhode Island 70-71 OT

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Dayton, 2/19 @St. Louis

Charlotte logged a 0-1 week and extended their losing streak with Satuday’s result in Rhode Island. Chris Braswell did draw a conference citation for logging his fifth double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in the loss. Charlotte hosts Dayton Wednesday and travels to St. Louis for a weekend game with the Billikens.

13. Saint Joseph‘s (6-17, 1-8)

Last Week: 2/13 @Fordham 76-70

Next Week: 2/16 vs. Xavier, 2/20 @Temple

The Hawks played a single game last week, but it was a good one as Saint Joseph’s stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to notch the program’s 1,500th all-time win, a six point classic, against Fordham last Sunday that also earned Langston Galloway his third Rookie of the Week citation for his career-high 25 point performance against Fordham. Saint Joseph’s’ two-game winning streak has been fun, but the Hawks are back in the meat grinder this week as they host Xavier on Wednesday and then travel across town to play Temple on Sunday.

14. Fordham (6-17, 0-11)

Last Week: 2/9 @Temple 66-77, 2/13 vs. Saint Joseph’s 70-76

Next Week: 2/16 @Xavier

Fordham’s winless string runs to 11 in conference play, with another 0-2 week. The probability they will finish the conference season without a win stand ominously at 44.7% per Ken Pomeroy. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests the Rams will earn a win, but the calculations for individual games shows a “losing” probability for each game. Best chance remains a travel-challenged Massachusetts squad at the end of the season. Fordham travels to Cincinnati to take on Xavier.

A Look Ahead

The week offers a single headliner game, Richmond at Temple on Thursday night. Crucial to settling the question of the #2 and #3 seeds in Atlantic City. A Temple win would assure the Owls of no worse than a #3 seed, with distinct possibilities of a #2 seed should Duquesne falter. A Richmond win will leave the question to be settled on the court in a season-ending clash with Duquesne on March 3. Rebounding has become Richmond’s burden to bear this season. The lack of presence on the glass means their shots have to fall consistently for them to have a chance. So far they have as the Spiders convert at a 54% (eFG%) rate in conference play. They do not however rebound defensively either. And that can be a real problem given Temple’s board domination. This one should go to the Owls, though Temple fans should be warned that Richmond has the strongest road-only efficiency in the conference.

The Rhode Island-Massachusetts game scheduled for Saturday can help the Runnin’ Rams for NIT consideration should Coach Baron’s charges win. With five conference games remaining in the regular season, Rhode Island can solidify a #5 seed in the tournament should they continue to win.

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