Morning Five: 11.03.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2011

  1. It’s a precipitous drop down the face of a monolith like El Capitan to go from the national championship game to losing to a D-II school at home, but Butler found itself in just that situation Wednesday night. The Northern State (SD) Wolves entered one of the most historic and difficult arenas in the nation in which to play — Hinkle Fieldhouse — and walked out with a 53-50 exhibition win after NSU’s Alex Thomas nailed a three at the buzzer to cap off a late 12-0 run. An image of the final shot can be found here (h/t @ryan_hilgemann), but nobody on the north side of Indy should go apoplectic just yet. After having lost three star players in the previous two seasons, the easy storyline is that Butler is going through a transition year, but the truth is that last season was a transition year too — all the way up until around March 15 when the Brad Stevens magic kicked back in. Butler is definitely going to have some growing pains as they figure out some things, but write off the Bulldogs at your own peril.
  2. Connecticut freshman guard and dunking machine Ryan Boatright is facing eligibility issues with the NCAA reportedly as a result of an issue involving his AAU team in his hometown of Chicago. Without knowing what the issue might be, it’s difficult to say how long this might drag out. But what we do know is that Boatright is expected to provide a backup role for starting point guard Shabazz Napier this season, and if he’s unable to do so, the Husky attack suddenly becomes much more tenuous. At that point, the depth chart moves into walk-on territory with freshman Brendan Allen next in line, although Jeremy Lamb would most likely be called upon to slide over from the shooting guard position and run the team — not an ideal situation, but one the Huskies may have to face.
  3. While on the subject of eligibility, Maryland freshman center Alex Len received a ruling from the NCAA on Wednesday that will allow him to resume practice immediately but will force him to miss the team’s first ten regular season games as penance for playing with an overseas club team. The seven-foot Ukranian will be eligible to rejoin the Terps’ seven other healthy scholarship players on December 28 against Albany, but Mark Turgeon’s team will have to tread water with limited personnel for the first few weeks of the season against a tough nonconference schedule that includes Alabama, Wichita State (possibly), Illinois and Notre Dame.
  4. Now this is the kind of news we like to read and put into the M5. Last week it appeared that Louisville freshman wing Wayne Blackshear was likely to miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury. Rick Pitino said on his radio show this week that surgeons found a better-than-expected situation when they opened him up, and with proper rehabilitation and a little luck, the star rookie could be back in action in as soon as 6-8 weeks. In case you’re doing the math, that’s right around the time that the Cards will make their biennial trip 60 miles east to play a certain game in Lexington. Welcome to college basketball, kid?
  5. Finally, Matt Norlander over at CBS Sports has put together a fairly interesting analysis prospectively looking at strength of schedule metrics for the upcoming season. As he says in the article, the gold is in the graphic that shows every power conference team (+ eight others, including Xavier, Memphis, Butler and Gonzaga) and how its 2011-12 schedule rates on a number of criteria. Long Beach State, for example is off the charts, playing a nonconference slate that features six true road games and a set of opponents who collectively averaged 26.2 wins a year ago. DePaul‘s opponents, on the other hand, averaged 12.8 wins last year. It would have been interesting to take another step with this data set and accounted for the personnel losses and incoming talent of the opponents (as Dan Hanner has done in the past), but there are still some interesting takeaways available here.
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Morning Five: 07.25.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 25th, 2011

  1. Perhaps never in the history of modern college basketball has such an inconsequential player (to this point of his career) caused so much message board speculation over where he might ultimately land (Makhtar Ndiaye?).  Former Wake Forest center Tony Woods, he of the misdemeanor assault plea for pushing and kicking his girlfriend last year, will finally re-surface at Oregon after months of rumors and endless chatter that he would end up at Louisville, then Kentucky, then Texas.  The situation took a turn in favor of Dana Altman’s Duck program when it was discovered that Woods could be eligible to play in Eugene immediately because UO utilizes a quarter system, whereas the other schools are on a semester calendar.  This quirk will allow Woods to finish up his associate’s degree coursework prior to school beginning in September, making it so that he can begin practicing with the team in October and suit up for games again in early November.  Oregon certainly has the need, as last year’s best interior player, Joevon Catron, was a senior and has moved on.  If Woods can tap into some of the promise that made him a Top 50 recruit in the class of 2008, Oregon may move more quickly up the Pac-12 standings than expected next season.
  2. Speaking of the topic of eligibility, it appears that St. John’s recruit Maurice Harkless will in fact be eligible to play for Steve Lavin next season.  Late last week the NCAA cleared Harkless to play for the Johnnies as a result of an investigation to determine if he had played for current SJU director of basketball operations, Moe Hicks, during his prep AAU career.  Call it the package deal rule, but the NCAA has a regulation to avoid situations where schools hire AAU coaches to get to their elite players (see: Michael Beasley), and since Harkless had played for the New York Gauchos a couple of times, there was some question as to whether his association with Hicks (an administrator with the Gauchos) violated that rule.  The NCAA ultimately ruled that Hicks never actually coached Harkless, a fine-line distinction no doubt making Lavin a very happy man over the weekend.  Harkless is the type of elite recruit based in the NYC area that St. John’s must attract in order to get back to upper echelon of the Big East conference on an annual basis.
  3. Act One of the Bruce Pearl aftermath came to light on Friday in Knoxville, as the News-Sentinel reported that Tennessee has imposed a two-year probation on itself as a result of NCAA wrongdoing under Pearl’s (and former football coach, Lane Kiffin’s) direction.  Here’s the key statement: UT believes that “the penalties imposed during the course of its investigation, coupled with its corrective measures, adequately address the violations that occurred.”  As such, the school’s “probation” levies only a very minor restriction on new head coach Cuonzo Martin’s program, removing an ability to feed players occasionally through off-campus meals.  Arguing that all of the principal bad actors have since been removed from the program, the school clearly believes that it has suffered enough as a result of the Pearl fiasco.  Of course, the NCAA Committee on Infractions has the final ruling on this, and we have to believe that UT basketball will lose more than the occasional pizza party when the ruling finally comes to pass in the next several weeks.
  4. Well, this is certainly interesting.  Over the weekend, Connecticut confirmed (and then denied) that it is in the process of negotiating a deal to oust current athletic director Jeff Hathaway from his position.  Normally, we may not have much of an interest in this administrative decision or non-decision, but according to UConn insiders, the departure of Hathaway may be just the thing to inspire three-time national champion Jim Calhoun to give another year (or two, or three) a shot.  The other intriguing angle to this power play against someone who presided over the basketball team’s latest national title and the football team’s bid to the Orange Bowl is that the Hathaway is scheduled to take over as the Selection Committee’s chairman next season.  This of course begs the question as to whether he might remain in that role if he is no longer affiliated with a Division I school.  Keep an eye on the UConn Blog for the latest on this story.
  5. It’s not very often that the mother of the nation’s top-rated recruit openly questions why a school she likes isn’t recruiting her son, and even less so when that school is a rather pedestrian mid-major, but that appears to be the case with respect to Class of 2012 superstar Shabazz Mohammed and his mom’s alma mater, Long Beach State.  Faye Mohammed starred in track and basketball at LBSU in the mid-1980s, but to hear her tell it, she “would have liked to see [head coach Dan Monson] come in and get involved and see what happened with that.”  Admittedly, the former Gonzaga and Minnesota coach would likely have faced a losing battle going up against schools like Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and UNLV (his official list), but don’t you at least make a few calls and hope for a hail mary?  After all, other than that school over in Westwood, Long Beach is the only other local school.
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RTC Live: Montana @ Long Beach State

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

Game #146.  One of the better BracketBuster games of the day is in SoCal, as Big Sky leader Montana visits Big West leader Long Beach State.

Finishing up BracketBusters Saturday, we’ve got a battle between two conference-leading teams, in an odd sort of matchup that is little more than a glorified exhibition. The outcome of this game will have no impact on either team’s NCAA Tournament resume, as both the 49ers and the Grizzlies will need to win their conference tournaments in order to advance to the Big Dance. And, this inter-conference game will also have no effect on the seeding of either team in their conference tourneys. However, the absence of any tangible importance to this game will have little effect on the players on these squads, getting a rare chance for each team to appear on national television in the form of an ESPN2 broadcast. And, the matchups between the two teams are enticing. The Niners come into the game riding a five-game winning streak and have a two-game lead in the Big West, while the Grizzlies have won three straight, including an important win over Northern Colorado a week ago tonight to give Montana a half-game lead in the Big Sky. For the 49ers, all five starters average double-figure scoring, junior point guard Casper Ware is the reigning Big West Player of the Week and junior forwards Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson have also won that honor this season. On the other end of the court, sophomore guard Will Cherry should provide a good match for Ware, while the size in the middle of the Grizzly lineup (6’11 senior center Brian Qvale and 7’0 junior forward Derek Selvig) will challenge the 6’5 Anderson and 6’8 Robinson. Qvale just recently became the all-time leader in blocked shots in Big Sky history (he has 232 career blocks and a blocked shot on 11% of all opponents two-point field goals this season), and the combination of the great size in the middle of the defense and Cherry’s excellent defense on the perimeter (he adds a steal in over 5% of all defensive possessions, good for sixth in the nation) will undoubtedly give Long Beach trouble. But LBSU’s history of playing a tough schedule (they had the third toughest non-conference slate this year according to KenPom, with games against San Diego State, Washington and North Carolina, among others), combined with their athleticism should make this a fascinating matchup. We hope you’ll join us to wrap up your college basketball Saturday with an entertaining game and some good chat.

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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on December 18th, 2010

We’re back with another weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  Keep in mind that we’re trying out a new format this year, so please let us know in the comments if you think it’s working, not working or we should tie bricks to our feet and go jump in the freezing lake.  We’re open to whatever feedback you have.  The idea behind it is that we’ll update after each three-hour (or so) block of games with some instant analysis on what we’ve seen so far today.  So here goes…

  • 64 Nearly No More.   Great game in Lawrence this early afternoon, as Josh Selby made his college basketball debut and in so doing saved a home court winning streak that began at Allen Fieldhouse when he was a mere freshman in a Baltimore high school.  More on Selby’s first appearance of the season below, but for the second time this season, the Jayhawks survived by the skin of their teeth against an inferior Pac-10 team on their home floor.  In an ugly, defensive-minded game favored by USC’s Kevin O’Neill and KU’s Bill Self, it was the inability for Southern Cal to secure two late defensive rebounds on scrambles that led to its loss here today.  On both misses, Kansas didn’t panic and instead rotated the ball to the reverse side of the floor (this made Bob Knight very happy) where  an open three-point shooter named Josh Selby was waiting.  On both occasions Kansas was already down two and had taken a poor shot — had USC gotten the rebound, especially with 26 seconds remaining, you’d have to figure the Trojans were in the driver’s seat to steal this one.  Didn’t happen, and perhaps that’s a reasonable explanation as to why Kansas has won a billion games at home and USC is 0-3 on the road this year.  The Trojans had one more chance down one with five seconds to go but point guard Jio Fontan stepped on the sideline as he made his move.  With the victory, KU has won 65 in a row at AFH, which is just over halfway to the all-time record of 129 that Kentucky put together in the 40s and 50s.  KU should easily get to the brink of #70 and the top ten all-time between now and January 22 and January 29, when Texas and Kansas State come to town on consecutive Saturdays.
  • Josh Selby’s Long-Awaited Debut.  In the most highly anticipated opener in the Sunflower State since Dorothy clicked her heels and found out you can go home again, freshman Josh Selby debuted in a Kansas uniform in Lawrence this afternoon.  And he looked like the Jayhawks’ best player, going for 21 points on 5-11 shooting, including two gigantic threes down the stretch that saved KU’s 65-game home court winning streak.  His five made field goals, in fact, were all threes, and he added five rebounds to go along with four turnovers.  The one area that concerned us was this little factoid: one assist.  Clearly Selby is a scoring point guard, and nobody is confused about that, but with the talent available to him on his team he’s going to have to make sure to pass the ball enough to keep the upperclassmen happy with their touches.  This has been a concern with KU in terms of successfully integrating the talented guard, and after seeing him today, we understand why.  He’s much more Jacob Pullen than Kyrie Irving.  One aside for Maeshon Witherspoon, Selby’s mom…  KU’s colors are crimson and blue with white trim and lettering — not orange.  You might want to hit the student store on the way off campus this afternoon.
  • Mister Fontan Makes USC Better.  USC has really struggled this season with early losses to Rider, Bradley, Nebraska, TCU and now Kansas already.  The problem has been clearly a lack of offense, and that issue is directly attributable to the lack of a serviceable point guard.  Fontan is beyond serviceable — he could be the second-best lead guard in the entire Pac-10 behind Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.  Considering that the Trojans are among the worst teams in America in terms of assists, the addition of Fontan (who only had two assists today, nevertheless) should help Kevin O’Neill’s team greatly with running his team.  With Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson inside, there is enough talent here for the Trojans to make some waves in the mediocre tidepools of the Pac-10, so it’ll be interesting to see how they develop together in the next few weeks.  He certainly felt that his team should have won the game today, as he tweeted after the game:
  • Oakland Hangover.  Just a few days after winning the biggest  game in program history, Oakland played badly in Ann Arbor today and never seriously threatened Michigan in a 69-51 loss.  Keith Benson was alright, going for 11/7/4 blks in 37 minutes of action, but his supporting cast who were so impressive earlier this week didn’t show up today.  Ledrick Eackles and Larry Wright combined for 31 crucial points in Knoxville, but they only came up with four today (on 1-15 FG).  Greg Kampe’s team has played a lot of good major conference opponents this season, but the Golden Grizzlies coach would have loved to have notched a win over a Big Ten on his resume as well — they’ll have one more chance against Jared Sullinger and Ohio State on Thursday.  Beating Michigan would have been easier.
  • Afternoon Games to Keep an Eye On...  Some interesting mid-game scores to keep an eye on the rest of the afternoon:  UCF leads Miami (FL) in an effort to keep their unbeaten record intact; UIC is challenging Illinois in Chicago; and Long Beach State is leading St. Mary’s at the Wooden Classic (RTC Live coverage there).
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RTC Live: Wooden Classic

Posted by rtmsf on December 18th, 2010

Games #74-75.  RTC Live heads to Anaheim for an interesting double-header of west coast powers.

RTC Live returns to Anaheim for the Wooden Classic, the 17th annual edition of this event, but the first without its legendary namesake, where a quartet of western teams make up a solid schedule. The matinee features Long Beach State and St. Mary’s, a couple of teams expected to at least challenge for their regular season conference titles, although both teams still have a lot to prove. The Gaels have posted an 8-2 record thus far, but have come up short in their two biggest tests of the season (against BYU and San Diego State) with their best win over St. John’s looking a little less impressive by the day. LBSU has again played a brutal schedule, at this point considered the toughest in the country by KenPom, but have only had middling success on their way to a 5-6 record, with a win over Iowa their best outcome balanced against losses at North Carolina, Utah State, Washington and at home against San Diego State. The Niners gave North Carolina a good run their last time out behind a career-high 31 from junior forward T.J. Robinson, and he could be in for an interesting matchup with SMC junior forward Rob Jones, who has led his team in scoring in each of the last four games, including two straight double-doubles. In the main event, UCLA faces #16 BYU in a good test for the Cougars. While Anaheim is just 40 miles from the UCLA campus, and the Bruins are certain to have more fans at the game than any of the other teams, UCLA fans just don’t travel well (especially on what is supposed to be a rainy weekend in the Southland), so this won’t be a de facto home game for Ben Howland’s squad. However, if UCLA can find some kind of way to slow BYU’s Jimmer Fredette (much easier said than done, but the bulk of this task will likely fall to Malcolm Lee, with plenty of other Bruin eyes keeping track of the All-American candidate at all times), they could cause matchup problems up front. While BYU does feature a string of big guys up front, UCLA’s frontline of Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith could give the Cougars trouble. BYU head coach Dave Rose will want to see his team get out in transition early and often, and it will be interesting to see Howland’s response, as he has claimed a desire to see his team up the tempo from recent years. But likely the best chance for the Bruins to keep this one close is to ugly things up and turn this into a rockfight. Should be an interesting day of basketball in Anaheim, and we’re hoping you’ll drop in and join the conversation, starting at 11:45am PST.

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After the Buzzer: Butler’s Unfurling & Opening Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

In case you’re just catching up with us after a football weekend, we covered Friday night’s games — the real Opening Nightin a special ATB that evening, while RTC contributor Zach Hayes put together an Opening Night edition of his 10 Scribbles series to share some of his initial thoughts on most teams’ first games of the year.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This is something we don’t see much and it may be a long time before we see something like it again, so Butler’s banner unfurling from Saturday night was this weekend’s best moment.  Jump ahead to the 2:20 mark if you’re the impatient type (a shorter alternate version is also available).

Quick Hits…

  • Emmanuel Negedu.  Hey, if you can literally come back from the dead and contribute 8 points, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block in your first game as a New Mexico Lobo merely a year after you were resuscitated, you deserve all kinds of props.  Can’t root for this guy enough.
  • Chris Singleton. Quite possibly the best defensive player in the country, Singleton pulled off a very difficult triple double by going for 22/11/10 stls on Sunday against UNC-Greensboro.  Oh, he also added four blocks just for show.
  • Illinois Backcourt. Bruce Weber’s backcourt of Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul off the bench was outstanding on Saturday against Southern Illinois.  The three combined for 43 points and 16 assists in that game, and in three games this season all of them are shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from deep.  With the solid play inside of the two Mikes (Davis and Tisdale), the Illini look very strong right now.
  • Kyrie Irving.  As good as advertised, with 17/4/9 assts to prove it against Princeton on Sunday.  Everything seemed completely natural and smooth with very little wasted motion.
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  MBA’s been getting a lot of hype all offseason, but we weren’t completely sold due to his inconsistency over the last three years.  After a 28/13 performance against McNeese State on Saturday, we might be coming around.  As a side note, the Huskies had an inconceivable 67 rebounds in that game.
  • Matt Howard’s Foul Trouble.  Sure, we know the game was against Marian College, but the fact that Howard failed to commit a single foul in 23 minutes of action is encouraging.  Without Gordon Hayward around, Brad Stevens must have his star big man on the floor most of the time this season, so committing nearly four fouls a game again isn’t going to work.
  • DJ Cooper.  Keep an eye on Ohio University again this year — the MAC champions who took out Georgetown in last year’s first round NCAA game return MAC POY candidate Cooper, who debuted the 2010-11 season with a strong 25/5/7 assts/3 stls evening.
  • James Rahon.  SDSU’s transfer guard from Santa Clara hit three straight threes in the mid-second half to give the Aztecs breathing room to win a true road game in front of a packed arena in Long Beach.  If the Aztecs can get solid guard play to match their dominant post play, Steve Fisher could have a MWC juggernaut on his hands.
  • Jeremy Hazell.  Seton Hall might be able to put together a surprisingly good season if it can continue to get the types of games it got from Hazell today.  28 points on 8-11 FG and 8-8 from the line is extremely efficient, something that Hazell hasn’t always done well.

… and Misses

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RTC Live: #23 SDSU @ Long Beach State

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2010

Game #7.  RTC Live makes its first-ever visit to the LBC, home of Snoop Dogg and a ghost named Caspar (Ware).

The Mountain West favorite Aztecs open on the road against one of the top contenders for the Big West title, the 49ers of Long Beach State. Kawhi Leonard, the MWC 2009-10 Freshman of the Year leads an SDSU team that returns all five starters from last season’s MWC tournament champions, but they’ll face an LBSU squad that is nearly as experienced, returning four starters, and certainly not afraid of the big boys.  The 49ers will travel to Washington, North Carolina and Arizona State later in the season. For the Niners to have a chance to pull off the home upset in Long Beach, they’ll need to be able to keep up with the Aztecs on the glass, a tough task for a team that will be undersized at nearly every position. If they can keep the rebounding battle close and get out and run, Steve Fisher and his Aztecs could be in for a battle as their fresh new season kicks off. We hope you’ll join us a bit before the 4PM PST tip for what should be an interesting couple hours of hoops.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

Welcome to our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, SoCal)

  • Jio Fontan – Soph, G – USC. Last year, USC was the talk of the college basketball world for a stretch, when senior point guard Mike Gerrity, a transfer from Charlotte, took over the team in December and promptly led the Trojans to an upset blowout victory over then #8 Tennessee in his first game of the season. The Trojans went on to win their next five games, including the inaugural Diamond Head Classic, with Gerrity serving as a big spark. In 2010-11, head coach Kevin O’Neill and his team will welcome another Division I transfer to the active roster over the winter break, and they hope to sustain the bump in talent they’ll get when Fontan joins the team as a midseason transfer from Fordham. In fact, Fontan was in the midst of an on-campus visit last December 19 when Gerrity was leading the Trojans to their win over the Volunteers and he committed to the school just days later, perhaps seeing the blueprint for his own success in Gerrity’s. Luckily enough for O’Neill and the Trojans, Fontan will have more than just the one semester of eligibility that Gerrity had.  But while their paths to the USC roster may seem similar, their games are different. Fontan is more of a combo-guard, capable of running an offense, but more adept at creating for himself than being a pure distributor. Not that he isn’t capable of handing out assists – he averaged more than four assists per night during his one season plus five games at Fordham – but Fontan is at his best with the ball in his hands, able to both blow by defenders and hit from long range, scoring the ball to the tune of 15.3 points per game in his freshman season on his way to Atlantic 10 rookie of the year honors. Paired with established frontcourt returners Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson and a talented group of newcomers, including 5’7 point guard Maurice Jones who will handle the lead guard duties until Fontan is eligible, Fontan will be surrounded by far more talent than he ever was in his time at Fordham. And if things go as well as could be hoped for, Fontan will have a chance to reprise Gerrity’s Trojan debut, as Southern Cal will travel to Kansas (and then, three days later, they’ll play the return game in the Tennessee series) for Fontan’s first game, giving USC a chance to make another big mid-season splash on the national stage.
  • Tre’Von Willis* – Sr, G – UNLV. For a good part of last summer, Tre’Von Willis, the star shooting guard for the Runnin’ Rebels, may have thought that his collegiate career was over thanks to his June 29 arrest for felony battery involving an ugly incident with a woman in nearby Henderson, Nevada.  Willis ultimately copped to a plea agreement of a lesser charge of misdemeanor domestic battery, and in interviews since the incident he has shown considerable sincerity and self-awareness in suggesting that he placed himself in a bad situation.  After he serves a mandated three-game suspension meted by coach Lon Kruger, Willis will likely be back in action for UNLV’s second regular season game against Southeastern Louisiana.  And it’s a good thing that he will be, as the Rebel program has eyes on putting together its best season since the understated head coach rolled into town several years ago.  Considering that the Rebs have been to a Sweet Sixteen and won 30 games in a season under his tutelage (both in 2006-07), those are lofty goals.  But they are also realistic ones so long as some of the injury problems that Willis and several others have recently endured are controlled.  Willis in particular continues to experience knee pain as a result of arthroscopic surgery in August to repair cartilage, a recurring problem which caused the capable scorer to lose some of his lift at the end of last season and definitely impacted his effectiveness.  As an example, after scoring twenty or more points ten times through mid-February, Willis only hit the figure one more time during the last eight games of the year, a sure indication that he was not at 100%.  The hope is that his summer surgery,  a new outlook on opportunity as a result of his legal troubles, a sprinkling of maturity (he also had a daughter) and much-needed rest will encourage Willis to come back with an all-America caliber season.  He was chosen as a first-team all-MWC guard in 2009-10 when he contributed an all-around game of 17.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.5 APG while increasing his previously-sketchy shot selection to the point where he added nearly 10% (from 38% to 48%) on his field goal percentage.  If he can truly put everything from last summer behind him and remain healthy for an entire season, the new Aria Hotel may not be the only must-see on The Strip this winter.

Tre'Von Willis Has to Sit Three Games (LV Sun/S. Morris)

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part five)

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2010

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

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Five: SCHEDULING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State – Brown enters his fifth year as an assistant on head coach Dan Monson’s staff, after previously having spent time on coaching staffs at Cal-State Northridge, USC and Iowa State.
  • Dale Layer, Head Coach, Liberty – Layer enters his second season at Liberty after having spent a season as an assistant at the university in 2007-08. In between, he spent a year at Marquette and previously he spent seven seasons as the head coach at Colorado State. He has compiled a 118-122 record in his eight seasons as a Division I head coach.
  • George Ivory, Head Coach, Arkansas-Pine Bluff – Ivory enters his third season in Pine Bluff, where he has turned the Golden Lions into winners. UAPB turned around an 0-11 start last season by finishing 18-5 over their last 23 games, winning UAPB’s first SWAC tournament title in 43 years and advancing to the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual national-champion Duke.
  • Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: Williams has been the AD at Portland for six years now following a five year stint as the head of licensing and product marketing at his alma mater Notre Dame. Williams was a two-time All-American offensive lineman with the Irish before starting 44 games in the NFL.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider – Dempsey enters his fifth season as the head man at Rider, following two seasons as an assistant. He has compiled an 83-75 record over that time and coached NBA lottery pick Jason Thompson during his time there.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.
  • Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason – Caputo is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach for the Patriots after spending the previous three seasons as an administrative assistant and video coordinator under head coach Jim Larranaga.
  • Jason James, Head Coach, Tennessee-Martin – James enters his second season as the head coach at UT-Martin following eight seasons as an assistant coach there. His first season was rough, to the tune of 4-25, after he was appointed head coach in the wake of scandal with the previous head coach. But James, the recruiter who brought Lester Hudson to UT-Martin, has plans to begin to turn things around this season.

For the most part, our first two articles on scheduling at the mid-major level have talked about the difficulties associated with lining up game. We mentioned that some schools see benefits to playing big-time programs with talented rosters, both in recruiting and in preparing their teams for conference and postseason play. Another benefit to playing these types of games is the money. Very few of the programs at this level have huge athletic budgets, so the money from taking a guarantee game and going on the road to face a bigger school is important not only to the basketball program, but also to the entire athletic department and the university. So while getting a chance for publicity from playing these games is a great incentive, the money associated with them is also a strong enticement.

Guarantee Games Are Not Always Guaranteed

Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State: The Big 12, the ACC, they’re all paying out big guarantees. It all depends on that particular school’s budget – some big schools will pay $55,000 or $60,000 guarantees. You can even get up to $80,000 or $90,000. And the later you wait, if there is a BCS school still looking for games, they may have to raise up the ante, they’ll pay a larger amount than they would have three months earlier.

Dale Layer, Head Coach, Liberty: It’s an important part for most mid-majors. Here at Liberty, the athletic department typically tries to reinvest a lot of that money back into the program, so we’re able to use it in a way that enhances Liberty basketball and the athletic department in ways that everybody can appreciate.

George Ivory, Head Coach, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: We think the money is very important, and the main thing when we play those games, you want to do everything you can to help out within the athletic department and the university. So we don’t have a problem playing guarantees. It’s a great thing for the guys to play that kind of schedule, you’re playing some of the top players in the country, some of the top coaches in the country, so I think it is a great experience for all of us.

Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: We will play guarantee games. At some places there are mandates where you’ve gotta play these many guarantees and earn this much money, but we don’t do that. We’re trying to be very conscious of the growth of our program. And if an appropriate guarantee presents itself, we’re not afraid to play it, because quite frankly, we can win those games too. So, we’ve gotta be conscious of the opportunity to get a win and a paycheck.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: I wouldn’t say we have a mandate. My AD and I have a very good relationship, and I, based on conversations with him, know what he is hoping to get, in terms of number of guarantee games, and know what he is hoping for based on the current budget and the current situation. So he and I sit down and visit and based on those conversations I know what I need to do. The bottom line is, I don’t mind playing those games.

Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider: You can ask ten different schools about guarantee games and get like five different answers. I don’t have a lot of pressure on me, on our basketball program, to play guarantee games. We do play them, but we don’t play too many of them. Last year for instance, we played one against Mississippi State, this year we play one at Pitt. It does help us with revenues within our athletic department at a school like ours, but fortunately our administration isn’t saying to me, you have to go out and play four guarantee games so that we can fund a different program. You know, I don’t have that pressure on me, I don’t have a certain number of dollars that we have to generate through guarantee games. If I choose to, if I want to maybe buck our RPI up in a year when we think we have a chance to be pretty good, maybe help us with getting into a postseason tournament, I have the opportunity to schedule them if I’d like. But I don’t have pressure from my administration to schedule them to bring in a lot of money, and I think that’s a very good situation to be in, where your program is funded enough that there’s not pressure to go take four losses, just to help out with the budget. And I’m very appreciative that I don’t have to do that.

While road guarantee games are the usual case for mid-major match-ups with BCS conference teams, there are other ways to get matchups with BCS schools in other environments, the most common and a greatly preferred way, is in the early-season tournaments like the NIT Season Tip-Off or the Maui Invitational. These tournaments often (although not always) give mid-major programs a chance to face high-majors on a neutral court.

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part four)

Posted by rtmsf on October 12th, 2010

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

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Four: SCHEDULING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Chris Lang, Writer, Lynchburg News & Advance: Lang has been the beat writer for Liberty University since 2005 after having spent eight years as the Sports Editor at the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider – Dempsey enters his fifth season as the head man at Rider, following two seasons as an assistant. He has compiled an 83-75 record over that time and coached NBA lottery pick Jason Thompson during his time there.
  • George Ivory, Head Coach, Arkansas-Pine Bluff – Ivory enters his third season in Pine Bluff, where he has turned the Golden Lions into winners. UAPB turned around an 0-11 start last season by finishing 18-5 over their last 23 games, winning UAPB’s first SWAC tournament title in 43 years and advancing to the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual national-champion Duke.
  • Jason James, Head Coach, Tennessee-Martin – James enters his second season as the head coach at UT-Martin following eight seasons as an assistant coach there. His first season was rough, to the tune of 4-25, after he was appointed head coach in the wake of scandal with the previous head coach. But James, the recruiter who brought Lester Hudson to UT-Martin, has plans to begin to turn things around this season.
  • Dale Layer, Head Coach, Liberty – Layer enters his second season at Liberty after having spent a season as an assistant at the university in 2007-08. In between, he spent a year at Marquette and previously he spent seven seasons as the head coach at Colorado State. He has compiled a 118-122 record in his eight seasons as a Division I head coach.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State – Brown enters his fifth year as an assistant on head coach Dan Monson’s staff, after previously having spent time on coaching staffs at Cal-State Northridge, USC and Iowa State.

Last time we talked about the difficult process that mid-major basketball programs go through when putting together their non-conference schedules, and we’ll get more of that here. When teams have a hard time finding quality opponents who are willing to come to their place, their choices get relegated to playing insanely tough opponents (like with Long Beach State who we discussed last time), playing a ton of road games as is normal for many mid-majors, or watering down the schedule with teams in the bottom reaches of Division I and even lower divisions of basketball. At East Tennessee State, for example, they had trouble finding anybody to come to Johnson City to play them, with Tennessee Tech and NAIA-school Milligan College the only non-conference home games on their schedule.

It's Tough When Scheduling NAIA is a Viable Option

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: Yup. That’s all we’ve got is two non-conference home games, and one of those in a non-DI school. But we just really struggled, more this year than I ever have as a head coach, to get home-and-homes started. And again, to get games is easy. To go on the road is easy. To get people to be willing to play you at home is not an easy thing.

Chris Lang, Beat Writer for Liberty, Lynchburg News & Advance: Between Liberty and Virginia or Virginia Tech, the biggest difference is scheduling. They can’t get anyone to come here to play men’s basketball games. There’s a reason they play three or four NAIA or non-DI’s a year, because you can’t get anyone. If you’re Coach Layer, you can take money game after money game, but do you want to put your team through that and never get a chance to play at home and get used to your home court? I know for this year’s schedule they have five non-conference home games and only two of them are against Division I teams. They got George Mason and William & Mary to come here, but it is very difficult.

The difficulties in scheduling, and specifically the difficulties in getting home games, lead to problems in terms of winning games. No matter the level of competition, it is hard to win on the road. So, the more road games a team has to play, the more likely losses can begin piling up.

Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider: The thing is, the leagues at mid-major level are just so balanced, and you can’t get non-conference home games, so in order to have a great year, you have to either dominate your league or win a lot of non-conference road games. And over time, those two things have been very difficult to do. It is hard to dominate a league that is so balanced where every night you can get beat. And non-conference road games are very difficult to win. So it makes having that 22- to 25-win year hard -– you had better be really, really good. And that’s why you see so many of the mid-majors at the end of non-conference play under .500 and so many of them hovering around .500.

And when mid-major programs lose games early, whether they be against big BCS teams on the road or in tournaments 0r even in their home games, it can hurt the confidence of the players, and it can diminish the support of the fans.

Bartow: The fans just have to be realistic. As a head coach, you don’t want to come out in the paper and be negative, you don’t want to come out and say, “hey fans, we’re going to lose a lot of these games,” but fans have to be realistic, fans have to understand the big picture. Again, when I go into these games, I hope we can win them all, I hope we can go undefeated, but I’m also old enough and experienced enough as a head coach to know when you go in and play Kentucky or Ole Miss on the road or Dayton on the road, chances are, you’re going to lose those games. So you just have to understand the big picture of what you’re trying to get done and fans have to be understanding as well.

At Arkansas-Pine Bluff, they worked their way through a rough 0-11 start to last season during a tough non-conference stretch featuring 11 straight road games with eight of them against BCS conference teams, before being able to turn it around and eventually earn their way into the NCAA tournament.

Is the UABP Model of Scheduling the Right One?

George Ivory, Head Coach, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Our team was good about it. You come to school and you want to play against tough competition. We started 0-11, but our minds were always positive. One thing we did last year that was maybe a little different than the year before was to just focus on our academics and the guys understood that their number one goal when coming to college was to get a degree. So we focused on that and it kept a lot of tension off of the 0-11 stretch for our guys.

The Arkansas-Pine Bluff model, a model similar to Long Beach State’s plan, is to play tough teams to toughen your squad up for conference play and the postseason. And many coaches found at least some validity to such a plan.

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part three)

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2010

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

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Three: SCHEDULING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider – Dempsey enters his fifth season as the head man at Rider, following two seasons as an assistant. He has compiled an 83-75 record over that time and coached NBA lottery pick Jason Thompson during his time there.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: Williams has been the AD at Portland for six years now following a five year stint as the head of licensing and product marketing at his alma mater Notre Dame. Williams was a two-time All-American offensive lineman with the Irish before starting 44 games in the NFL.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State – Brown enters his fifth year as an assistant on head coach Dan Monson’s staff, after previously having spent time on coaching staffs at Cal-State Northridge, USC and Iowa State.
  • Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason – Caputo is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach for the Patriots after spending the previous three seasons as an administrative assistant and video coordinator under head coach Jim Larranaga.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.

Last time out, the topic was recruiting. This time around, we’ll take a look at how mid-major programs feel about putting together their non-conference schedules and the different strategies that are used in order to line up games. It’s a part of the sport that doesn’t get talked about a whole lot, but it can have a big impact on how the program is perceived, and in turn, can impact a program’s ability to recruit successfully. One theme emerges as pretty unanimous: this is not a part of the job that is a lot of fun.

Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider: It’s brutal.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It is tough. Recruiting is number one certainly, but scheduling is not an easy thing.

Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: It really is, next to recruiting, the hardest thing we do in trying to run a basketball program.

It's Not Easy to Get Teams to Visit Places Like the Chiles Center (Portland)

While just about everyone at the mid-major level agrees that the scheduling process ranges from unpleasant to demoralizing, each program is able to develop their own strategies for filling in a schedule.

Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State: Different programs have different philosophies. You have home-and-home series where a school will come to your place one year and you agree to go to their school the following year. There are guarantee games where the larger school will pay you to go play them or you can pay a smaller school to come play you. And there are tournaments. There are different ways to do it.

To begin with, a school has to decide what it wants from its non-conference slate, and what it can reasonably get. Non-conference schedules are generally filled in with a combination of home-and-home agreements (where each school in the game will agree to play one game against the opposing team on their own home floor and the opponent’s home floor), guarantee games (where one team, usually a bigger school, will pay another team to come to their arena for a game), early season tournaments and other neutral-site events. At Long Beach State, they have shown over the past couple of years that they aren’t afraid to take on a scary-looking schedule. Last season they played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, with games at Notre Dame, Texas, Kentucky and Duke and neutral site contests against Clemson, West Virginia and UCLA. It doesn’t get any easier for the 49ers this season, with road trips to Washington, Utah State, North Carolina and Arizona State combined with neutral site games against St. Mary’s and Clemson (with two others to be determined by the results of an early-season tournament), and a home game against San Diego State.

Brown: We try to play some home-and-home series with teams in our region and then Coach (Dan) Monson’s philosophy is, given that the way our conference is set up and that every year only one team from our conference is going to the NCAA Tournament, his philosophy is to go play bigger schools so that when we get into our conference or into the NCAA Tournament, we’re not shell-shocked. We’ll play three guarantee games against three bigger schools, three BCS conference schools, where they’ll pay us to go play them. We also like to get into a tournament because they can guarantee three games where they only count as one game against your schedule. Like for instance last year, we were at the 76 Classic in Anaheim and this year we’re going to the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason: As far as Coach (Jim) Larranaga’s philosophy, he looks for balance in the schedule. You’ve got to play a certain amount of home games, a certain amount of road games and some sort of preseason event that is on a neutral site. I think that’s the key thing for us.

Balance in the schedule is the ideal for most mid-majors, mixing a handful of tough games with games against teams that they should beat, and finding a relatively equal number of road games for every home game on the schedule. But it is hard to achieve balance in a schedule when it is very difficult to get high-major and BCS-conference schools to come to your place, especially when you’ve had some previous years of success.

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part two)

Posted by rtmsf on September 28th, 2010

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

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Two: RECRUITING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider – Dempsey enters his fifth season as the head man at Rider, following two seasons as an assistant. He has compiled an 83-75 record over that time and coached NBA lottery pick Jason Thompson during his time there.
  • Jason James, Head Coach, Tennessee-Martin – James enters his second season as the head coach at UT-Martin following eight seasons as an assistant coach there. His first season was rough, to the tune of 4-25, after he was appointed head coach in the wake of scandal with the previous head coach. But James, the recruiter who brought Lester Hudson to UT-Martin, has plans to begin to turn things around this season.
  • Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State – Miles starts his third year in Long Beach following a seven-year stretch at Boise State where he was the primary media relations contact for the basketball team.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State – Brown enters his fifth year as an assistant on head coach Dan Monson’s staff, after previously having spent time on coaching staffs at Cal-State Northridge, USC and Iowa State.
  • Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason – Caputo is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach for the Patriots after spending the previous three seasons as an administrative assistant and video coordinator under head coach Jim Larranaga.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Dale Layer, Head Coach, Liberty – Layer enters his second season at Liberty after having spent a season as an assistant at the university in 2007-08. In between, he spent a year at Marquette and previously he spent seven seasons as the head coach at Colorado State. He has compiled a 118-122 record in his eight seasons as a Division I head coach.
  • George Ivory, Head Coach, Arkansas-Pine Bluff – Ivory enters his third season in Pine Bluff, where he has turned the Golden Lions into winners. UAPB turned around an 0-11 start last season by finishing 18-5 over their last 23 games, winning UAPB’s first SWAC tournament title in 43 years and advancing to the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual national-champion Duke.

Last time around, we heard about the challenges mid-major schools face in competing for recruits and the importance of player development at the mid-major level. This time, we’ll look at some of the more practical questions to be answered when recruiting, such as what types of players coaches are going to be looking for and where they are going to find them. If you’re in a talent-rich area, you may not ever need to go outside of your region to find players, but the bigger pool of talent from which you are able to draw, the more likely you are to be able to land talented players.

Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider: We’re in a great location. We sit right in the middle between Philadelphia and New York City. We’re about 35 miles from Philadelphia and about 50 miles from New York City, which also puts us two hours from Baltimore, maybe three hours from Washington DC, within three hours of Virginia, we have a couple of kids from Delaware, so again we’re in a location that allows us to recruit regionally. I think most coaches will tell you that they want to take care of their back yard, but how big your back yard is changes for everybody. If you’re in the Midwest and there are not as many players within a two-hour radius of your school, then obviously you have to change your approach. But in our situation we are able to do the majority of our recruiting close to home.

Locating Talent is Extremely Important

Jason James, Head Coach, Tennessee-Martin: As far as location, we try to bring in student-athletes within about a six hour radius from us, we’ve been more successful doing that, but saying that, we kind of go where we know people, where people can help us and we’ve been able to be successful because of our contacts.

Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State: Coach (Dan) Monson’s goal is always to get the best player in Long Beach. That’s his number one goal. That’s how we got Larry Anderson. Casper Ware is a local kid, T.J. Robinson happened to come from Connecticut, but he came because we were recruiting Larry Anderson who was at a prep school and we saw T.J. But, with this team this year we had a lot of returners, so they were trying to find pieces that would fit with this team, with all these returners they had certain needs and they may have been a little more particular about who they wanted. Three years ago when Coach Monson and his staff came here, they needed players, and it didn’t matter what position. And I think this year maybe more they wanted to recruit to a position or to a skill set.

Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State: We prefer to recruit locally, but really, it is all based on need. Certain classes are stronger than others: 2012 looks to be stronger than the 2011 class, as an example. And then there might be times when you have to recruit for need, like you need a point – it’s not just about recruiting a position, like you need a guard or forward – you might have more specific needs, like you need an athletic, guard-the-rim post-player, they may not need to be a great offensive post player. Or you might need a post player who can pick-and-pop and hit the three, but isn’t that great on the block. Or you might have a bunch of 6’4/6’5 athletes who are drivers/slashers, but you need to find a guy that can hit the three. If a player can do it all, they’re not going to come to our level. Sometimes we just need to find guys that can fit a need. In this case, we got some really good kids out of state and if we have a need and don’t think that need can be best filled out of the local area, we go to wherever it is we can get it.

Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason: There are some years where we sign a number of guys from the area and other years where it’s a little bit different, but yeah, our base is the local area. Last year we brought in two kids from the DC area. Obviously we want to stay with that as much as possible, but there are times when there is just not enough volume in your area when you’ve got to get five or six kids in a year, which we’ve had to do. You know, we had to get 10 guys in two years and so sometimes when there’s not as much in the area and you’ve got to get quality, you’ve got to go to places out of the area, and I think that’s where TV has helped us as well.

Schools like Long Beach State and George Mason have easy access to major metropolitan areas. Obviously, not all schools enjoy such a location, and as a result cannot rely entirely on getting recruits from their local area.

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