State Your Case: Wichita State, Monmouth, Valparaiso, Saint Mary’s

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 9th, 2016

It’s an all-too-familiar story: Several of college basketball’s most promising mid-majors – potential bracket-busters that made mincemeat of their conferences during the regular season – bulldoze their way into March, only to see their dreams of an NCAA Tournament appearance crushed during Championship Week. Nice to know ya; enjoy the NIT; better luck next year. In fact, of the 11 conference tournaments completed so far in 2016, only one top seed (Chattanooga) has managed to clinch its league’s automatic bid. Luckily, for a few of the unfortunate champions, this season may offer new hope. An exceptionally weak bubble, combined with some strong Other 26 resumes, has enabled several teams from non-power conferences to remain in the at-large conversation. In the spirit of election season, let’s allow these candidates to state their cases leading up to Selection Sunday.

Will Ron Baker and the Shockers get another shot on Selection Sunday? (

Will Ron Baker and the Shockers get another shot on Selection Sunday? (

Wichita State

  • The At-Large Argument. Advanced metrics love the Shockers more than any other team on the bubble, and it’s not close. KenPom currently ranks Wichita State #11 in the country – ahead of Miami (FL), Arizona and Xavier, among others – thanks in large part to its second-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency. Sagarin is not quite as high on Gregg Marshall’s group, but he still ranks the Shockers among the top 25. For the sake of comparison, fellow bubble comrades Syracuse and Ohio State do not fall within the top 40 of either ranking. On top of that, the Shockers are a classic example of a team the NCAA Selection Committee might – and perhaps should – judge differently now that they are at full strength. Three of Wichita State’s eight losses came without All-American Fred VanVleet, who missed four games in late November with an ankle injury. In two of those losses, the Missouri Valley champs didn’t have starting center Anton Grady either, who suffered a nearly career-ending injury against Alabama – a game they lost by just four points. There were other injuries, too. Now healthy, Wichita State seems to be a genuinely better basketball team. Oh, and did we mention that non-conference victory over Utah?

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Monmouth’s King Rice Talks Bench Celebrations and Basketball

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 4th, 2015

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist.

That bench. Those big upset wins over major conference teams. That bench.

Monmouth has had a surprising start to the 2015-16 season, beating UCLA in overtime at Pauley Pavilion (where even top-ranked Kentucky fell last night), and then Notre Dame and USC on a neutral court in Orlando during a Thanksgiving week tournament. And the Hawks have had a ton of fun doing it, with their bench becoming nationally known for their hilarious and diverse set of celebrations. We talked with fifth-year coach King Rice about where his program’s been, where it’s going and (on accident) where he plans to retire to when he hangs up the whistle.

Where did this season-opening run come from?

We’ve been going after this for a while. This is my fifth year as the head coach. Every year, we’ve played high majors. My first three years, the average margin of loss was 36 points. We played three or four of them a year, and everybody told me, “King, you’re crazy for playing schedules like this. What are you doing? What are you doing?” I just thought it was the right thing to do. Last year, our average margin of loss was nine points, and last year we played West Virginia, we played Maryland, we played SMU and Rutgers, so I felt like we were getting closer.

But to have this much success this early, no one could have imagined that. But we do have an older team now, most of our guys are juniors, and we’ve been in those situations for three years – and now it’s time for us to have a chance in those games.

You have that experience, yet you only have one senior…

I don’t want you to tell anybody that, because I don’t know if people understand. We’ve been building this program – this is our fifth year – and when we first started, we didn’t have a lot of success. My athletic director, Dr. Marilyn McNeil, believed in what she was seeing and what we were doing. And now it’s time for us to have some success, and the program is set up for us to be in a good place, because we do only have one senior. And then the following year, we’re going to lose five or six guys, but the guys that are in the program that will still be in the program are getting valuable minutes right now. So we truly feel like we’ve set it up the right way so we won’t be a one-hit wonder.

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At Monmouth, Confidence Oozes Up and (Very Far) Down the Roster

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 30th, 2015

There simply aren’t many teams in college basketball with a better trio of wins to this point than Monmouth, power conference or otherwise. The Hawks, picked to finish sixth in the MAAC, have already toppled UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, upset #17 Notre Dame in the AdvoCare Invitational and staved off USC to place third in the event. From a mid-major perspective, King Rice’s bunch simply owned the month of November. And yet, despite the spate of upsets and already-exceeded expectations, Monmouth’s achievements on the court have taken a backseat to its swagger directly off of it. You already know what we are talking about here: that bow-and-arrow-shooting, touchdown-tossing, feather-flapping, best-show-in-town bench mob of theirs. Not only have the antics been picked up by myriad blogs and news outlets around the country, they earned split-screen airtime during the team’s semifinal and third-place games over the weekend. But while the bench’s hilariousness and popularity is obvious and undeniable (the crew’s Twitter handle, @MonmouthBench, now has over 3,300 followers), its tangible connection to Monmouth’s on-court success deserves a deeper look. After all, what could be a better reflection of team culture than a bunch of no-names performing choreographed, multi-act celebration routines?

Daniel Pillari, Greg Noack and Monmouth's bench are taking college hoops by storm. (Getty Images)

Daniel Pillari, Greg Noack and Monmouth’s bench had some fun in November (Getty Images)

Make no mistake – the Hawks have talent, and their winning ways are not altogether shocking. Diminutive point guard Justin Robinson, a 5’8” preseason first-team all-conference pick, ranks sixth nationally in scoring (24.4 PPG) and racked up 77 combined points over the holiday weekend on his way to being named the AdvoCare Invitational MVP. Junior Je’lon Hornbeak, once a four-star recruit, has been an immediate contributor since transferring from Oklahoma. So too has freshman Micah Seaborn, another highly-touted prospect who went for 20 points against USC on Sunday, including 4-of-8 shooting from behind the arc. Deon Jones (7.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG), Collin Stewart (11.0 PPG) and Chris Brady (7.2 PPG) are all upperclassmen who have developed into solid players during their time in West Long Branch. This team is built to compete. Yet, Rice, a former North Carolina point guard under Dean Smith, seemed to suggest before the season that the toughness-based culture change he sought to create in 2012 has only now come to fruition because of his decision to loosen things up. “I think I understand the position probably more than when I first started, I learned everything doesn’t have to be my way or the highway type of deal,” he told the Asbury Park Press in mid-November.

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Jasick, Brennan, Rice & Ross: Four Outstanding O26 Coaching Jobs This Season

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 7th, 2014

As great as the Steve Fishers and Gregg Marshalls and Jim Crews of the world are — and they’re pretty darn great — several other O26 coaches have also achieved remarkable success so far in 2013-14, often with less to work with and more to prove. Let’s examine a few of those head coaches around the country who have stood out to this point despite leading lesser-known programs.

Tony Jasick has raised the bar at IPFW this season. (

Tony Jasick has raised the bar at IPFW this season. (

Tony Jasick – IPFW. At 18-7, Jasick’s team has already tied IPFW’s highest win total since it joined the Division I ranks 13 years ago, vastly exceeding expectations along the way. The Mastadons were picked to finish sixth out of eight teams in the Summit League preseason poll, making their current 6-2 conference record — enough to be tied for first place — quite a surprise, especially considering that they’ve already beaten the next three top contenders. In its win against overwhelming league-favorite North Dakota State, IPFW went 20-of-21 from the free throw line and committed just 11 fouls en route to a double-figure victory. It took Dayton some last-second heroics at home to beat Jasick’s club, and after falling to Illinois by just two points in late November, Illini head coach John Groce said of the Mastadons: “I thought they were going to be the best execution team that we have played so far. And they were.” Only 35 years old and in just his third year, Jasick could very well lead his program to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance this season and is sure to become a hot coaching name in the near future.

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Morning Five: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2013


  1. Michigan’s dreams of making another March run were dealt a major blow on Friday when the school announced that sophomore Mitch McGary would be out for the rest of the season after electing to have surgery on his lower back. McGary, who was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school even after a late slide down the rankings, started slowly as a freshman before turning around things late in the season to become perhaps Michigan’s second most effective player in the run to last season’s title game. Had he elected to enter the NBA Draft there is a good chance he might have been a lottery pick, but slowed by a back injury that had been bothering him since late August he was less effective (9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game) than the Wolverines would have hoped. Although we have seen college players make some strange decisions we assume that this will probably mean that McGary will return to Michigan next season to prove he is healthy unless some agent convinces him to leave with a guaranteed first round spot.
  2. In a somewhat similar way, but for a completely different reason, we may have seen the last of suspended Utah State forward Jarred Shaw this season after he was charged with felony drug distribution. Shaw, the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker, had already been suspended after police found marijuana after responding to a call at his residence. According to police, the amount of marijuana that they found was “more than personal use.” Given the latest information, we would be surprised if we saw Shaw, a senior, back in an Aggie uniform. Our best guess is that Shaw is headed overseas for a pro career assuming he is not playing in a prison league first.
  3. Seton Hall has already suffered several significant setbacks including both injuries and an Israeli military call-up, but those pale in comparison to what happened to Gene Teague on Friday night. Early in the second half of the team’s win over Lafayette, Teague went up for a lay-up and was undercut by a Lafayette player leading to an ugly fall (video here). Teague was immobilized, put on a stretcher, and taken to a local hospital when he was diagnosed as having suffered a concussion. The overall outcome is somewhat fortunate because based on the way he fell it could have been a lot worse. For now, Teague will be undergoing a series of tests as part of the standard concussion protocol to determine when he is fit to play again.
  4. Many of our younger readers might not be familiar with King Rice, the former North Carolina point guard from 1988-91. If they are familiar with him, it would either be through replays of old games or his history of arrests that continued up through his coaching days. So it was good to read a New York Times profile on Rice that appears to indicate that he may have turned a corner. Now the head coach at Monmouth, Rice has been arrested on several occasions including once as a junior at UNC on charges of assaulting his then-girlfriend, resisting arrest, and destroying public property. Many of Rice’s issues, including that arrest, appear to have revolved around alcohol. According to Rice, he has been sober for 17 years, but as anybody who has ever interacted with an alcoholic knows that can change very quickly so we hope Rice can continue on the new track that he appears to be on.
  5. This season has been a challenging one for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams so it would not have been entirely shocking to see them try to get heralded freshman Duane Wilson healthy in order to try to salvage the season. Wilson, a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his left leg since the preseason. On Friday, the school announced that Wilson would be taking a medical redshirt. Regardless of the status of Wilson’s recovery, which we have to rely on Marquette’s reports for, it seems like a redshirt is the best option for both parties as we doubt Wilson would have been unable to turn this team around and it seems reckless to throw away a year of eligibility on this Marquette season.
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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Northeast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the NEC.

Top Storylines

  • A Dynasty Grows In Brooklyn: It’s probably fitting that the Northeast Conference administrators chose the brand-new Barclays Center to host its annual media day. The NEC trophy has resided in this borough two straight years and LIU Brooklyn is planning on a unique ‘three-peat’. In the NEC’s 32-year history, no team has captured the title for three straight seasons. LIU Brooklyn is primed to finish the trifecta, but there will be stiff competition. Mainstays Robert Morris, Quinnipiac and Wagner will be in the hunt, and don’t forget ‘Battle of Brooklyn’ nemesis, St. Francis, just a mile away in Brooklyn Heights. The Terriers surprised last season and have enough returning talent to continue their recent success.
  • They’re Watching And Noticing: One of the significant aspects of the NEC’s improvement can be seen in coaching mobility. The higher-level schools are looking at and hiring mentors who prove they can X and O in this conference. Three years ago, Mike Rice went from Robert Morris to Rutgers. This past season, Duquesne chose LIU Brooklyn’s Jim Ferry, while Rhode Island, another Atlantic 10 school, obtained the services  of Danny Hurley, who quickly reversed fortunes at Wagner. As one coach noted at media day, “you have a group of good, aggressive coaches here who can build and run a program.” No surprise NEC coaches are on the big boys’ short lists.

LIU Brooklyn’s Julian Boyd Returns For NEC Favorite LIU Brooklyn. (AP)

  • Circle the Date: Wagner faces off against Temple, Syracuse, Penn, Princeton, Hofstra  and plays in the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara. However, a relatively early game of note is January 10 at LIU Brooklyn. The Seahawks have a four-game losing streak in the series and Wagner coach Bashir Mason all too well knows the the road to the NEC title will go through Brooklyn.

Reader’s Take I

Early Power Rankings (last season’s record in parentheses)

  1. LIU Brooklyn (25-9, 16-2 NEC): The Blackbirds seemingly have it all: Experience, depth and recent success of enviable excellence. And talent. Start with returning NEC Player of the Year, Julian Boyd. The 6’7” senior forward put together a sterling season where he averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per contest, highlighted by 14 double-doubles. Jamal Olasewere, another first team All-NEC pick, returns up front as well. In the backcourt is junior Jason Brickman. Seventh nationally with 7.3 assists per outing, Brickman has drawn praise from rival coaches for his passing ability and expertise in controlling the game. Coach Jack Perri is now at the helm with Jim Ferry gone to Duquesne. The transition has been very smooth for the former LIU assistant. Winners of 34 of their last 36 conference games, the Blackbirds are NEC favorites. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #20 – Northeast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 17th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Coaches Enjoy Honors: In September, Mount St. Mary’s coach Robert Burke coached in the Congressional County All-Star Classic. Burke coached a team of members of Congress while George Washington mentor Mike Lonergan guided a team of lobbyists.  The game was at GW’s Smith Center. Hopefully Burke did not allow his ‘club’ a lengthy recess. In other news, Wagner assistant Bobby Hurley was inducted into the Duke University Hall of Fame in September. Hurley scored over 1,700 points, handed out an NCAA record 1,076 assists and led Duke to two national titles during his playing days (19989-93).
  • A Long-Awaited Repeat In The NEC? Long Island is attempting to become the first NEC school in nearly two decades to successfully defend its conference title. The last? Current  MAAC  member Rider, which captured the NEC crown in 1993 and 1994.

Can LIU Capture the Blackbird Magic Again? (credit: NY Post)

  • The Numbers Game: Among starters lost, FDU and Quinnipiac lead the way with three each. It’s a matter of perception. FDU, coming off a five-win season, can look at this as a fresh start. Quinnipiac, a 22-win team from a season ago, has spots to replace. Tom Moore has options as he has the Bobcats primed for another run. The program with the least amount of starters lost? Wagner. The Seahawks, coming off an encouraging 9-9 conference slate good for a sixth-place tie, have every starter back on board.
  • Sacred Heart Mourns Loss Of Former Star: On a sad note, Sacred Heart is mourning the passing of Chauncey Hardy, a prolific player for the Pioneers from 2006-10. Hardy scored over 1,200 points during his Sacred Heart career and was playing professionally overseas in Romania at the time of his tragic death, which came after Hardy was assaulted in a pub.

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