Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC.
On-Site: St. Peters vs. Siena
The conference’s two most recent champions, St. Peter’s and Siena, tipped off last Thursday night. Defending champion St. Peter’s hosted a Siena team trying to get through injuries and searching for their identity. Sophomore point guard Rakeem Brookins is out for the season. The Saints are still not getting the services of OwenWignot, a good inside player. Early on, the Peacocks built a 21-7 lead as yet another slow start by the Saints put them in an early hole. Down nine at the half, Siena stayed tough. Even faced with a 16-point deficit on the road with fourteen minutes and change to play, Mitch Buonoguro’s group stayed focused. The lead was built courtesy of a tough man-to-man defense by St. Peter’s. Siena ws able to slowly get back in as their 2-3 zone and a St. Peter’s dry spell open the door. The Saints drew even late, but never get the lead, which Buonoguro later pointed out as very significant. Down the stretch, St. Peter’s nursed a slight five-point lead and with less than three minutes to play. BrandonHall, who hadn’t hit a shot all night, buried a crucial three-pointer for the Peacocks. That made it a three-possession game and proved to be the dagger for Siena. “This was a tough game,” St. Peter’s coach John Dunne said afterward. “It’s the type of game you will see a lot of in this league.”
Player of the Week: Scott Machado, Iona. The senior guard scored a career high 34 points in the Gaels’ 104-99 double overtime victory over St. Joseph’s. He is just the fifth MAAC player in history to record 1,200 and 600 assists.
Iona's Scott Machado Might Win Several of These
Rookie of the Week: Chavaugh Lewis, Marist. Lewis had a career high 23 points in Marist’s victory over Colgate. A freshman guard, Lewis averaged 15 points in a two-game stretch.
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.
Nonconference play is the norm and story around the country, but especially in the MAAC. Iona’s near-takedown of Purdue raised eyes and caught attention. The Gaels rebounded to defeat Western Michigan in the consolation round in that tournament in Puerto Rico, though, so not all is lost. On Thanksgiving, naturally Macy’s Parade and turkey are the order of the day, but the Old Spice Classic tips off as well with MAAC representative Fairfield entering the eight-team field as a viable threat.
Iona Was Very Close But Hummel Saved Purdue
Player of the Week : Maurice Barrow, 6’5″ So. F, Fairfield. Barrow scored 19 points while grabbing six rebounds in the Stags’ win over Quinnipiac.
Newcomer of the Week – Donovan Kates, 6’6″ Fr. G, Manhattan. Kates scored ten points, including two late threes to help the Jaspers edge NJIT at Draddy Gymnasium.
Last season, the Horizon League put four teams in the postseason — can it do it again?
Eli Holman’s Leave of Absence: The Detroit big man is easily the best returning post player in the H-League, but whether or not he will return is a big question. Holman was placed on “indefinite leave” from the team at the end of September to handle some legal issues drawn from an incident at a fraternity house earlier in the month. Big Ten fans will remember Holman as the player who left Indiana after getting into a confrontation with then new coach Tom Crean. Without Holman, the Titans have a big hole in the post and would have to rely more heavily on Nick Minnerath and LeMarcus Lowe to pick up the pieces of a broken inside game. They still have some of the best talent in the league, but without that dominant force, who knows what they’ll get.
Kaylon Williams In Trouble: Milwaukee got some bad news as well, with starting point guard Kaylon Williams getting pulled over in Iowa and blowing a .228 BAC. What makes matters worse for Williams is that he fled the scene on foot, although he was picked up shortly afterward. No official word has come down from the university on punishment besides a short statement from head coach Rob Jeter. “We are aware of the situation involving Kaylon Williams. We are disappointed and will take appropriate action as we gather more information and the legal process runs its course.” This is Williams’ first offense and it is unclear how much, if any, time he will miss. Last season, Milwaukee had difficulty with Williams off the floor, but prepared for further uncertainty by recruiting junior college player Paris Gulley and high school point guard Shaquille Boga.
It Says Here That Matt Howard Was the Difference Maker at Butler
Butler’s Back Again: Obviously, the college basketball world is familiar with the recent NCAA Tournament dominance of Butler. “Familiar” might not be the word; “obsessed” may be closer. In any case, Butler came a 50-footer from the title in 2010 when no one thought they would make it. They suffered a poor shooting night in 2011 to keep the Bulldogs from that elusive title when no one thought they’d be back. Is it so crazy to say that they could make another run to the Final Four? The answer is yes. While losing Gordon Hayward and some key players from the previous year’s team didn’t spell the end for them in 2010-11, 2011-12 will be a different story. Forget Shelvin Mack, Hayward, and even Brad Stevens. To me, the one person that deserves the most credit for both of these runs is Matt Howard. We all knew from day one that he was a special player, and what lack of NBA athleticism (he’s still athletic) he had was made up big time in his skill, determination, and intelligence. To me, he’s the best leader-by-example in basketball that I have ever seen, and his graduation means someone else at Butler will have to try and pick up that torch. You can replace Shelvin Mack’s scoring and Zach Hahn’s knack for the timely three-pointer, but you can’t replace Matt Howard’s… Matt Howard.
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC.
Reader’s Take I
Conference Tournament Changes Venues: The MAAC championship will be staged at Springfield’s MassMutual Center. How the March 1- 5 event manages to be received and attended will be followed closely by many observers. The conference and MassMutual Center staff have been working feverishly to provide the best possible product for fans. With the nearest school, Siena, roughly 90 miles away, providing an attractive event to draw fans is paramount and, as noted, will be tracked. The MAAC will have the tournament in Springfield from 2012-14.
MAAC Participates In Non-Conference Events: The MAAC will be represented in the annual Sears BracketBuster event in February. The conference will also host the Old Spice Classic in Orlando during the Thanksgiving weekend (with representative Fairfield a legitimate threat). Prior to March, a few MAAC schools will test out the MassMutual Center in the expanded Hall of Fame Classic on December 9. UMass will face Siena and Fairfield opposes Old Dominion.
Glover Fits For Wooden List: Iona senior forward Michael Glover has been named to the Wooden Award preseason Top 50 list. Glover transferred from Seton Hall to Iona and instantly made an impression as one of the MAAC’s brightest stars last season.
Sydney Johnson Brings His Coaching Talent to the MAAC
New Coaches On Board:SydneyJohnson takes over at Fairfield and has a wealth of talent on hand. Johnson got his start in D-I basketball only seven years ago as an assistant for John Thompson, III, before spending four seasons as Princeton’s head coach. Steve Masiello is the new man at Manhattan. Masiello does not have the talent Johnson has, but is not short on enthusiasm and expectations. Masiello knows the MAAC well, having assisted Bobby Gonzalez for several years at Manhattan before heading to Louisville to work as a member of Rick Pitino’s staff.
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 latest update comes courtesy of our Horizon League correspondent, Jimmy Lemke.
End of an Era - Homer Drew may have done his best work in the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), but that doesn’t bar the Horizon League community from recognizing the tremendous stature of the now-retired Valparaiso coach. He’s done it before – briefly retiring earlier in the decade to pave the way for son Scott Drew and promptly retaking the reins after Scott took the very difficult job at Baylor – but this time you could tell it was final. His ability to recruit overseas is second to none, and we will always remember the feel-good story of his1998 team. Speaking of that year, the coach to now replace him? None other than his other son, all-time Crusader great Bryce Drew.
Dickie V. Rules In Motor City - The Detroit Titans made a big splash this summer by deciding to name their court for former Titans coach and renowned broadcaster, Dick Vitale. While he spent only four years as head of the Titans before taking over as coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Dickie V’s exploits on behalf of college basketball are immeasurable. Dick Vitale IS college basketball, regardless of how you feel about him. As a longtime follower of the Milwaukee program, I see the court naming as a disappointment for Perry Watson, who coached the Titans for a considerably longer stretch and was very successful in that time, but there’s no doubting the decision from the future point of view. This season, St. John’s will play at Detroit on ESPN following a ceremony celebrating the honor, and I’d be willing to bet the Titans are banking on any Dick Vitale anniversaries falling on Detroit’s home schedule with a visit from ESPN.
Big Names Depart – Brandon Wood took a highly-publicized transfer to Michigan State and will be able to play immediately because he finished his degree at Valparaiso where his graduate program isn’t offered. Shelvin Mack declared for the draft and stayed put, going early in the second round to the Washington Wizards. But the biggest move in the conference is from the graduating senior class. Nearly every big team lost multiple big time competitors. Butler, of course, lost Mack, but they also lost Zach Hahn, Shawn Vanzant and, most importantly, Matt Howard. Milwaukee loses Anthony Hill and streaky-but-dangerous shooter Tone Boyle. Wright State, already on the downturn, lost Cooper Land, Troy Tabler, Vaughn Duggins and N’Gai Evans. Cleveland State waved a heartfelt goodbye to perhaps the most talented of them all, Norris Cole, now with the Miami Heat. Put simply, eight of the ten 2010-11 all-Horizon League team members have exited the conference, with only two remaining: Ray McCallum, Jr. and Eli Holman, both of Detroit.
Brad Stevens Led The Bulldogs To Another Title Game Appearance, But He Faces Life Without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack in the 2011-12 Season.
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 latest update comes courtesy of our MAAC correspondent, Ray Floriani.
The MAAC should provide another interesting race for the top. Two of last year’s best programs, Iona and Fairfield, will slug it out. The Gaels were tournament runners-up to St. Peter’s while Fairfield was the conference regular season champion. Off the floor, the wheels are already in motion as the conference plans the move to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the men’s and women’s championships will be contested at the MassMutual Center.
A Busy MAAC HQ: The headline for a good part of August concerns the conference postseason tournament. ‘The Road to MAAC-achusetts‘ began on August 3, with marketing representatives from each MAAC institution meeting at Siena College. Reps from the MassMutual Center, the host site, were also in attendance. Among the presentations and objectives were league-wide advertising of the championships on ad pages and in media guides, in game promotions allowing fans the chance to win tickets to the tournament and grassroots marketing efforts in the communities of each school. Ticketmaster also outlined social media opportunities which will allow fans to follow the MAAC schools and see who may be attending a particular session of the tournament. “There are great synergies developing between the championship marketing team and the MAAC,” said Marissa Skibbe, Global Spectrum’s Director of Marketing at the MassMutual Center. “Together, we have created an extensive and fun plan that is moving like a well-oiled machine. We can’t wait to see the creative elements come to fruition.” The tournament isn’t the only place where the conference’s administration is making waves, however. MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor was recently named to the WCBA board of directors. One of the most highly-respected administrators in college basketball, Ensor recently completed a five-year term on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.
Dunne rewarded at St. Peter’s - Fresh off the school’s first 20-win season in two decades and first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995, St. Peter’s awarded coach John Dunne with a new contract extending through 2015-16. Dunne’s first two teams at St. Peter’s recorded just eleven wins total, but the win total over the past three seasons is 47, including 30 victories in MAAC play. The Peacocks finished this season 20-14 and captured the MAAC Tournament crown at Harbor Yards. They appeared in the NCAA Tournament, but were defeated by Purdue in the opening round. Dunne’s name was starting to surface as a few openings arose in the spring. The financial details of his new contract were not reported, but the extension marks a notable increase in pay over his former contract. “Throughout his [Dunne’s] tenure, he has guided our student-athletes to success both on the court and in the classroom, St. Peter’s AD Pat Elliott said. “We are excited about the future of St. Peter’s basketball with Coach Dunne leading the way.”
New Faces: Steve Masiello took over at Manhattan, replacing Barry Rohrssen. Masiello mostly recently was on Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville. He knows the conference, however, having served as an assistant on Bobby Gonzalez’s Jaspers staff before heading south. After turning around the program at Fairfield, Ed Cooley was summoned to do the same at Providence in the Big East. Replacing Cooley is highly-regarded Sydney Johnson, formerly of Princeton. Last season, Johnson led Princeton to the Ivy title and NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual Final Four participant Kentucky by just two points. Johnson will inherit a strong group of returnees at defending regular season champion Fairfield. On the court, Lamont “Momo” Jones decided he was ready for a different role after playing a supporting part with Derrick Williams in the Arizona Wildcats’ head-turning NCAA Tournament run and transferred to Iona (more after the jump).
Momo Jones' Transfer To Iona Will Spell Trouble For Gaels Opponents. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Earlier this year Washington‘s Venoy Overton was involved in a salacious case where he was accused of statutory rape before local police decided not to pursue the case further. Now it appears that Overton has found himself in trouble again as he was arrested yesterday afternoon for promoting prostitution. According to police reports, an 18 year-old female was questioned for “prostitution activity” and told police that her boyfriend, Overton, brought her there and told her to engage in prostitution. According to the female, Overton gave her specific instructions on what acts to perform, what to charge, and what percentage he took. Lorenzo Romar, who took quite a bit of heat this season after letting Overton return to the Huskies after his prior run-in with law, issued the following statement: “I have been informed of the arrest of Venoy Overton and I am extremely disappointed. My staff and I spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy attempting to mentor Venoy prior to his recent graduation, so this news is especially troubling.” Overton, who graduated on Saturday with a degree in American Ethnic studies, is expected to appear before a judge today.
The guys at Lost Lettermancaught up with former prep star Lenny Cooke recently. For those of you who not aware Cooke was one of the premier high school players in the country in the Class of 2002 and considered by many to be at the same level as two more well-known players in his class–Amar’e Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony. Through a series of bad decisions and unfortunate events Cooke never played a minute in college or the NBA. Today, Cooke’s legacy will probably come from the 2001 ABCD Camp where Cooke, a rising senior, was matched up against a hyped rising junior named LeBron James in what was supposed to be a match-up for the ages. Unfortunately for Cooke, LeBron, who was already demonstrating his knack for coming up big in big moments (wait, what?), destroyed Cooke on both ends of the floor to start the LeBron hype machine going full force while Cooke began his rapid fall.
It appears that Virginia coach Tony Bennett may almost be ready to turn the Cavalier program around with a solid group of recruits. Virginia, which had been one of the better programs in the ACC during the 1990s, has only made the NCAA Tournament once in the past decade. After a 7-9 record in an admittedly weak year for the ACC, Bennett could have the Cavaliers primed to be a sleeper in the conference and could challenge the second tier of teams (the ones not named Duke or UNC) in the very near future.
Earlier this week we linked to a column by Dana O’Neil talking about the difficult jobs of college basketball assistant coaches. Yesterday, Ohio State‘s Brandon Miller, considered by many to be one of the top assistant coaches in college basketball, stepped down citing a need to spend more time with his family. Although it isn’t an ideal time to try to find a new assistant coach with the summer recruiting season about to heat up, the Buckeyes recruiting should not suffer too much as Thad Matta already has two experienced assistants in Jeff Boals and Dave Dickerson and could potentially promote newly hired video coordinator Greg Paulus to take Miller’s place.
When Oliver Purnell took over at DePaul last year it was widely considered one of the tougher rebuilding projects in America, but had some potential with the ability to recruit local Chicago high school players. While Purnell did have some success in his first year (winning the school’s first Big East game after a 24-game losing streak and its first road conference win since 2008) it was a very difficult year again for the Blue Demons. Things may get even tougher for Purnell as he will have to replace both Devin Hill and Eric Wallace who have decided to leave the program with Hill leaving for Loyola and Wallace leaving for Ohio State.
Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC. Get set for the MAAC tournament, which starts on Friday, by taking a look at RTC’s preview and regular season recap.
Last year, it was Albany. The next three years, Springfield, Massachusetts. The MAAC is on the move. This season’s postseason tournament will be at Harbor Yards in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The MAAC format is a unique one in that both the men’s and women’s tournaments are contested at the same site. This makes it easier for the fans and gives an opportunity to showcase each member’s program on both the men’s and women’s side.
The men’s tournament tips the evening of March 4, with both men’s and women’s finals the following Monday. The MAAC will be a one-bid league. Iona, Fairfield and Rider have impressive records, but not enough to get an at-large bid. The conference tournament will be winner-take-all and on to the Big Dance.
Fairfield coach Ed Cooley would be the first to admit home court advantage is nice, but it’s no guarantee. Any of the top four could emerge as champion. At any rate, a prediction must be made and the choice is Fairfield. The Stags have a nice inside/outside combination. A 66 possession paced team, the offensive efficiency is moderate at 100 but the defense, an outstanding 89. Defensively, they force opponents to give up the ball on 25% of their possessions. With Derek Needham at the point, the Stags TO rate is an impressive 18%. The Stags also boast a plus-four edge in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Credit that to the presence of seven foot junior Ryan Orlander, 6’5 senior Yorel Hawkins and 6’5 freshman Maurice Barrow.
The MAAC, with Siena in recent seasons, has been represented well in the Big Dance. Fairfield, with good guard and interior play, could prove a tough first round matchup. A lot depends on the draw and how Fairfield and the opposition line up. The early season schedule had a few tough tests and they were away from home. Cooley wanted a team ready not just for the MAAC, but the challenges of post season as well.
Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League Correspondent for RTC. With the conference tournament set to tip tonight, get a leg up on all things Horizon in this week’s recap and postseason preview.
To be perfectly honest, the Horizon League Tournament is stacked to allow the top two seeds the ability to get into the tournament, and it’s hard to argue with the success – each of the co-champions has won in the NCAA Tournament since the current format began. The funny thing is, hot teams really should be able to win the thing, and this year is no different. Except the hottest teams, Milwaukee (nine conference wins in a row) and Butler (seven) are the two best programs running into the Horizon League Tournament. The way those teams played, against the top teams all the way down to the bottom of the conference, was good enough to warrant the double-bye.
Butler’s side of the bracket features some really tough teams. Cleveland State is a co-champion, the first such team to have to go four games to win it. Wright State split with Butler, and both Green Bay and UIC played Butler tough during the conference season.
The Milwaukee side of the invitational features Youngstown State, who very nearly beat everyone ahead of them at the Beeghly Center; Loyola, who actually won in the U.S. Cellular Arena against the hosts; Valparaiso, who had the #1 seed until eight days ago; and Detroit, who has all the talent in the world and fought their way into the #5 seed on the last day of the regular season.
Butler will have to play Cleveland State or someone else on their side of the bracket just to get to the conference championship, but make no mistake, they’ve got someone that they’re looking forward to playing. Fast forward to the 4:35 mark.
Fairfield maintains a lead. The Stags have now won 20 games two consecutive years for the first time in school history. St.Peter’s was a heartbreaking loss away from knocking off Fairfield on Sunday. Despite the setback, coach John Dunne (the choice of yours truly as MAAC Coach of the Year) feels his club is in a very positive mindset as the home stretch and conference tournament draws nearer.
1. Fairfield (20-5, 13-2): Two victories on the road for the first-place Stags. Fairfield won at Manhattan (65-56) and at St. Peter’s (70-69 in overtime). The game with St. Peter’s was a battle of defenses, as Fairfield had a slight 92-91 OE edge. Defense was reflected in TO rates, as the Stags were guilty of 25% of their percentages ending in turnovers while they forced St. Peter’s into a 26% rate.
Notable: Derek Needham captured Player of the Week honors averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Stags’ two road wins over the weekend.
2. Rider (18-9, 10-5): A homestand wound up at .500. Rider dropped a close (67-65) nail-biter to Canisius before bouncing back (61-50) against Niagara. A few oddities in these two games: Against Canisius, the OE was 107 and TO rate 15%. In the win over Niagara, the Broncs’ OE was 88 with a 28% TO rate. Defense was the answer, as Rider allowed a 110 OE against Canisius but only a 73 two days later.
Notable: Seniors Justin Robinson, Mike Ringgold and grad student PatrickMandel have won 77 games over their Rider careers. Robinson has hit 44 of his last 46 free throw attempts. Freshman Danny Stewart is emerging of late, ready to carry the torch. He scored 17 points to accompany nine rebounds against Canisius.
3. Iona (16-10, 10-5): A sweep predicated on the simple formula of good offense plus good defense. The Gaels won over Siena (69-65) and at Marist (85-70). Their offensive efficiencies were 105 and 120, while they allowed 98 and 99 OE ratings. Taking care of the ball was paramount with 17% and 10% TO rates. On the other side, opposing offenses were disrupted into 27% and 25% rates.
Notable: Junior Scott Machado registered the 1,000th assist of his career against Manhattan. MikeGlover averaged 19 points for the Gaels and senior Alejo Rodriquez is coming on of late. Rodriquez averaged 9.3 points and rebounds for Iona during the week.
4. St. Peter’s (15-11, 10-5) One of two with a victory (66-54) at Marist followed be a heartbreaker (70-69 in OT) to Fairfield at home. The turnovers reared their ugly heads once again – St. Peter’s TO rate is 24% on the season and they were at 27% and 26% in the two respective games. The Peacocks shot a 61% eFG at Marist to boost the offense, but were only 41% against a better defensive team in Fairfield.
Notable: Jeron Belin scored 22 points in the loss to Fairfield. Ryan Bacon had 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in the win at Marist.
5. Loyola (13-12, 9-6) Two home games resulted in a split. The Greyhounds were upset by Niagara (59-57) before bouncing back for a win over Canisius (72-57). Loyola managed meager 89 offensive efficiency clip against Niagara. A 41% eFG percentage and 22% TO rate led the offense to stagnation. They got back on track, posting an outstanding 114 OE against Canisius.
Notable: Justin Drummond, a freshman guard, earned Rookie of the Week distinction. Drummond scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes of action in the Greyhound victory over Canisius.
6. Canisius (13-12, 7-8). A road split for the Griffins. Canisius defeated Rider (67-65) before dropping a meeting at Loyola (72-57). At Rider, the Griffs put up an outstanding OE of 110. On the other hand, their OE at Loyola was 91, with the defense a 114. Chalk a good part of the blame to TO rate. At Rider the number was a very creditable 15%, at Loyola a ridiculously high 32%.
Notable: Senior forward Elton Frazier averaged 15 points, 6.5 rebounds and shot 63% from the floor. Frazier had 20 points in the loss at Loyola. Sophomore guard Gaby Belardo hit the game-winner at Rider. It was the third time he hit a game clinching shot this season.
7. Siena (10-15, 7-8) Saints went zero for two on the New York swing. They dropped close games at Iona (69-65) and Manhattan (84-81). A 27% TO rate was largely the undoing in New Rochelle. Against Manhattan, the Saints, a 101 defensive efficiency team, allowed a 108 mark. Pace was also a factor, as the 69-possession Saints got into a fast paced 78 possession outing against the Jaspers.
Notable: Sophomore Jonathan Breeden filled in for injured RakeemBrookins at point guard. Breeden scored a career high 24 points against Iona and had 20 in the game against Manhattan.
8. Niagara (6-21, 3-12): Two road games and a split. They Won a close one (59-57) at Loyola before getting turned back (61-50) at Rider. Defense was solid with 89 and 88 efficiencies in the two outings. Offense? A good- enough-to-win 92 at Loyola followed by a less-than-adequate 72 against the Broncs. The latter game saw Niagara hit a 25% eFG mark (their season low) while committing a 26% TO rate. Purple Eagles have a borderline 20% TO rate on the year. Against Rider, it was too far on the negative side.
Notable: Niagara erased a 13-point second half deficit for their first MAAC road win of the season at Loyola. ScooterGillette had ten points and a career-high eight rebounds.
9. Manhattan (5-21, 3-12): The Jaspers earned a home split, losing to Fairfield (65-56) before surprising Siena (84-81). The efficiency margin was a -15 against the Stags but improved to a +4 against Siena, thanks to a sterling 108 OE. Manhattan had a 57% eFG percentage against the Saints. It was sorely needed to offset a 24% TO rate.
Notable: George Beamon, the Jaspers’ outstanding sophomore guard, hit a career high 35 points in the win over Siena. Beamon was 12-19 from the floor and 10-10 on the charity stripe. Beamon averaged 19.3 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists for his last three games.
10. Marist (4-23, 3-12): The Red Foxes dropped home games to St. Peter’s (66-54) and Iona (85-70). Efficiency margins were a respectively poor -19 and -21. They let up a 120 efficiency to Iona largely due to the Gaels 56% eFG mark. The Red Foxes struggled both games on the offensive end failing to reach a 100 offensive efficiency either time out.
Notable: Sophomore guard Sam Prescott exploded for 34 points in the loss to St. Peter’s. It was the first time in four years a Marist player broke 30 points. The last was Will Whittington with 31 in an NIT victory at Oklahoma State on March 13, 2007. Prescott was 5 of 7 from three against St. Peter’s.
A Look Ahead
Wednesday, February 16:
Rider at Loyola
St. Peter’s at Siena
Canisius at Niagara
Iona at Manhattan
Marist at Fairfield
Saturday, February 19: The MAAC joins several mid-majors in the annual BracketBusters event:
Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.
A Look Back
The Horizon League had a lot of jockeying at the top last week as Valparaiso and ClevelandState both suffered losses, pulling the top five teams within two losses of first place with only five games to go for most teams. Cleveland State avoided the season sweep from Valpo, defeating them to take over sole possession of first place. Time in the top spot was limited, as the Vikings were dispatched by Butler and Detroit in succession. The Titans had probably the best week of all, going 3-0 in a short stretch and moving into sixth place, which would net them a home game in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament.
Before we get started, I’d like to let you know that the Power Rankings will be expanded to discuss jockeying for the conference tournament in March.
1. Valparaiso (17-7, 9-3) – The Crusaders may have lost to CSU in Ohio, but Homer Drew finds himself in the top spot following a squeaker victory over surprising Youngstown State. The Crusaders will host Detroit and Wright State this weekend at the ARC. Beating the Raiders is very important, as it knocks the 2nd place team back to the pack. Valparaiso has one of the toughest remaining schedules. All they need to do is win, and then the conference tournament will run through Valpo. Remaining conference games: Detroit, Wright State, at Milwaukee, at GreenBay, Loyola, UIC.
2. Wright State (17-9, 10-4) – Since taking a loss at Milwaukee a week ago, the Raiders took care of business with a 3-0 week. Sure, the victories came against the dregs of the Horizon League, but the conference has no easy outs, as Loyola and Youngstown State have proven this season. They stand one loss behind Valparaiso, but if they can topple the Crusaders, they’ve got a real opportunity to steal the conference with TroyTabler and CooperLand hobbled. To win the conference, they need to beat Valparaiso and keep winning. Remaining: at Butler, at Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Detroit.
3. Cleveland State (21-5, 10-4) – The week started off great; a victory over top-seeded Valparaiso put them in the driver’s seat. Then losses to Butler and Detroit really nipped the Vikings, who now are looking up at the Crusaders and have some very tough dates left on their schedule. If they’re going to win the conference, they need someone to pull Valparaiso down to four losses. Remaining: Youngstown State, at Wright State, Milwaukee, Green Bay.
4. Milwaukee (13-11, 8-5) – The switch has come on at just the right time. Since a blowout loss at Valparaiso, the Panthers have run through a veritable Horizon Murderer’s Row with flying colors, dispatching Butler, Detroit, Wright State and Green Bay to put themselves right in the thick of things. The Panthers can’t afford another loss or their chances at a League title are all but gone, but they also can make things rough for Valparaiso and Cleveland State. They need to go 5-0 the rest of the season, as well as see Valparaiso and Wright State suffer a loss at the hands of someone else. Remaining: at Loyola, at UIC, Valparaiso, at Cleveland State, at Youngstown State.
5. Butler (16-9, 8-5) – The Dawgs did themselves a mitzvah by dispatching Cleveland State and keeping themselves in the running. The sweep by Milwaukee prevents the Bulldogs to beat them in almost any tiebreaker scenario. Luckily for Butler, the Panthers have a difficult road schedule remaining and they should be able to win most if not all their remaining games. They need Milwaukee, Valpo, Cleveland State, and Wright State to lose as well, Valpo twice. Too bad for them, they only have the ability to beat Wright State, tonight. Remaining: Wright State, Detroit, at Green Bay, at UIC, Loyola.
6. Detroit (14-12, 8-6) – Detroit will not win the conference, and their opportunities to get the #2 seed are almost nil. The good news is that their victories last week have put them over the top of Green Bay for the six seed, which is almost as important as jumping into the two seed. If the season were to end today, the Titans would host Green Bay in the tournament. Remaining: at Valparaiso, at Butler, Youngstown State, at Wright State.
7. GreenBay (12-12, 6-6) – Missing out on the opportunity to sweep Milwaukee and put themselves in a tie for fourth has given the Phoenix a lot of problems. They have games against three of the top five teams in the conference, but if they finish the season with a good record, they can sneak back into the top six. Remaining: at UIC, at Loyola, Butler, Valparaiso, at Youngstown State, at Cleveland State.
8. Loyola (13-11, 4-9) – For what seems to be the fourth season in a row, Jim Whitesell’s weak non-conference scheduling has led to the team being unprepared for the conference season. This season’s 9-2 non-conference record has given way to a bad 4-9 record, guaranteeing a losing conference season. The Ramblers are on the outside looking in for a conference tournament home game, because they would need to win their last five games as well as have Detroit lose all four remaining games and Green Bay to drop at least three of their final six. Remaining: Milwaukee, Green Bay, at UIC, at Valparaiso, at Butler.
9. YoungstownState (8-16, 2-12) – I took a lot of flack last week for proclaiming that YSU does not belong in the Horizon League, then having the Penguins beat Butler and very nearly take down Valparaiso. My stance toward the Penguins hasn’t changed, and neither will most people when they realize this: should the Penguins sweep their final four games and end at 6-12, it will be their third best victory total in conference games since they joined the conference ten years ago. Remaining: at Cleveland State, at Detroit, Green Bay, Milwaukee.
10. UIC (6-19. 1-12) – Blowing out Youngstown State was the bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Flames. The first year of Howard Moore was considered a wash since day one, since he only had a couple months with the team before the start of the season. Next season will be a better indication of the direction Moore is taking the Flames. They will open the conference tournament on the road, where they haven’t won in the H-League this season.
A Look Ahead
Tonight’s showdown at Hinkle between Wright State and Butler will be a good indication of what the conference picture is looking like. Beat Butler, and the Raiders have a trump card over the other two teams in the top three and the opportunity to pull Valparaiso into a three-way tie on Saturday. Lose, and they’re at best the #5-seed going into Saturday. Valparaiso hosts red-hot Detroit at 7 p.m. tonight.
Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.
A Look Back
Fans are still getting used to Butler being out of the top spot, but the past couple weeks have led the Bulldogs to losses at WrightState and (most recently) Valparaiso, and the biggest shot to the stomach may have been an overtime loss at Hinkle against Milwaukee that completed a very impressive sweep by the Panthers. The Crusaders and Cleveland State Vikings kept on trucking, putting distance between themselves and the rest of the Horizon League by going undefeated in the last week. CSU had an easy week, going on the road in Chicago and getting two victories. Valparaiso, on the other hand, got everything Butler could give them and won in front of a packed house at the ARC before they were taken down by the Vikings Thursday night.
1. Cleveland State (21-3, 10-2) – Since their difficult trip in Indiana, the Vikings have gone 6-0 and have been generally strong in doing so, even though their three road wins came at the dregs of the Horizon League. A victory at home against Valparaiso put them in the driver’s seat for the time being. Any H-League fans fancy spending early March in Cleveland?
2. Valparaiso (16-7, 8-3) – The Crusaders have definitely had a more difficult schedule than the Vikings since their victory on January 9, but a hiccup at home against Green Bay separates them for now. Thursday’s game was a huge letdown, and now the Crusaders are looking up; luckily they still have the inside track on the two seed and its double-bye.
3. Wright State (15-9, 8-4) – The Raiders only had losses to the top two teams before dropping a decision at Milwaukee, adding on to the impressive streak of losing at the Panthers (the last time Wright State won at Milwaukee was in 1997). The Raiders have, along with Detroit, the most difficult schedule remaining. A victory at the ARC next Saturday is essential for the Raiders to have a decent shot at overtaking Valpo.
4. Milwaukee (12-11, 7-5) – The Jekyll-and-Hyde season for the Panthers finally subsided with Milwaukee taking games at Butler and at home against Detroit and Wright State. The last (and only) time the Panthers won or lost three games in a row was between November 14th through the 20th. Beat Green Bay on Saturday, and they keep the pace with the top. Lose, and it’s back to the pack.
5. Butler (14-9, 6-5) – Since blowing out Cleveland State, the Dawgs and Vikings have gone two separate directions. Butler has gone 3-4 since then, dropping a game at home against Milwaukee to complete the sweep and road games at Wright State, Valpo and Youngstown State (seriously). With five conference losses, they have a very outside shot at the all-important two seed, but it is essential that they defeat Cleveland State and Wright State to keep their hopes alive.
6. Green Bay (12-11, 6-5) – The Phoenix answered a loss at Detroit with an emphatic victory at Green Bay on Sunday. Guard Rahmon Fletcher has scored in double figures in eight straight games, including a 24-point performance against the Titans. Saturday’s game at Milwaukee is the only game of the week for the Phoenix, and is a huge rivalry for two teams knotted at five losses in the conference.
7. Detroit (12-12, 6-6) – Ray McCallum Sr.’s Titans have been on a downward spiral, going 2-5 over their last seven with victories over UIC and Youngstown State. The depth of the Titans has been an issue this season, and an extremely talented starting five has had to play a ton. When they get in foul trouble, McCallum is forced to play guys like Evan Bruinsma in important situations, as he did down the stretch Friday against Milwaukee.
8. Loyola (13-10, 4-8) – Luckily for the Ramblers, they have separated themselves from the Flames and Penguins. Unfortunately, that still leaves them at 4-8m looking up at the pack in terms of a home game in the conference tournament. With three more losses than the sixth-place team, the Ramblers have all but lost an opportunity to host a Horizon League tournament game. They can be dangerous in the tourney with GeoffMcCammon, so look for him to get some rest once their seed is pretty much set.
9. Youngstown State (8-14, 2-10) – Wow, what a victory for Youngstown State over Butler on Thursday night. This game will go down as one of the 2-3 best victories in program history, or at least for the decade it has been in the Horizon League. But you see, that’s the problem. The victory over the Bulldogs is no easy feat, but when the team tied for fifth place in the conference is one of your best victories of the decade, you’ve had a pretty awful decade. The time is ripe for the Penguins to move on from Jerry Slocum and truly invest in their program. Don’t be surprised if the Horizon League has meetings to consider contraction of Youngstown State if Slocum is still the coach in April, or the replacement is not paid at a comparable level of other conference schools.
10. UIC (6-17, 1-10) – This was a lost season once April 2010 passed and Jimmy Collins was still the head coach. The fact that it took until August to install a replacement for Collins, who retired over the summer, made the 2010-11 season pointless from a competitive standpoint. Poor Paul Carter shouldn’t have applied to play immediately and instead should have sat out the season as a regular transfer. Now, the team looks to be out of luck in the future as well, with Carter, Robo Kreps, DipanjotSingh, Brad Birton, and potentially Zavion Neely (due to academic issues) on their way out. Of course, a blank slate to go along with a full season of recruiting may be just what Howard Moore needs.
A Look Ahead
The two teams off on Thursday, Milwaukee and Green Bay, square off in a huge rivalry game at the U.S. Cellular Arena on Saturday afternoon. The winner is still in the mix for a potential bye (albeit barely), but the loser will be fending off Detroit to hold onto the #6 spot and a conference home game. Following the loss at YSU, Butler is gasping for air. The worst time for this to happen is now, as they are headed into Valhalla to take on the Vikings of Cleveland State. CSU is fresh off a decisive victory at Valparaiso and split the season series. It would be a huge step for the Vikings if they could bury Butler with a sixth loss in conference. Not exactly the 1-2 matchup that ESPN was hoping for, but Butler can still make the conference race very interesting by sweeping the league leaders.
2.5.2011 – Green Bay at Milwaukee, 3 p.m. ESPNU
2.5.2011 – Butler at Cleveland State, noon ESPN or ESPN2
2.5.2011 – Loyola at Detroit, 2 p.m. HLN
2.7.2011 – Cleveland State at Detroit, 7 p.m. HLN
Expanding on Contraction
In the power rankings, I hinted that the Horizon League may want to consider contraction should Youngstown State move forward with Jerry Slocum as their head coach or replace him with a similarly shortchanged coaching staff. Besides Valparaiso, the Penguins are the only program that has been added since the 1994-95 season, and unlike Valpo, Youngstown has never been truly competitive in the conference. In their tenth season in the conference, YSU has never been better than fifth place, and that was in 2006-07. They are 2-9 in the Horizon League Tournament, with their best victory a four-pointer over #6 Green Bay in the 2002-03 tourney. Their coaching salaries are remarkably poor, only matched by the Phoenix.
But there are two things that separate Green Bay from Youngstown. For one, the Phoenix have been successful in the past ten years (and wildly successful during the nineties), scoring two #2 seeds in the past decade. The Penguins have never been anything more than marginal; how can the conference trump up a program who hangs its hat on a 14-7, 7-9 season as their best in a decade? The other thing that separates the similarly penny-pinching programs at Green Bay and Youngstown State? At UWGB, the Green Bay Phoenix are the show. Their nationally-ranked women’s basketball program is great, but men’s basketball, like it is at eight other schools in the conference, is the meal ticket. At YSU, football will always trump men’s basketball. Whenever money is being allocated at the Ohio school, it goes directly into the football program. Slocum is a good coach with over 600 victories, but never had a chance at Youngstown State because of the serious lack of resources, a very poor campus neighborhood and city at large.
At the very least, the conference members should consider setting certain restrictions to force Youngstown State to bring their program up with the rest of the League. However, they’ve had ten years and have played the anchor, dragging down everyone’s RPI in almost every season. What would the conference look like this year if YSU were in the Summit or NEC, two conferences that may be better fits for them? UIC would be the anchor, but even their RPI (#277 as of today) would be higher because they’d be lifted from the two games (and one loss) to the Penguins.
Were it my call, I would cut Youngstown State; is it heartless? Probably. Shouldn’t I give them time to pick themselves up? No, because they’ve had a decade to do so and haven’t shown any interest in becoming a better program. I don’t see any Slocum replacement changing that unless he and his staff are compensated more to the tune of other conference schools and their recruiting budget is picked up.
It’s not Youngstown State’s fault. They are married to football, as they should be – the program is the lifeblood of the city. But the lack of money for other sports points to the fact that the Penguins should be playing in a different conference; perhaps it’s a move to the Summit League, where they used to play, or maybe it’s the NEC. In either case, they’d be matching up with similar budgets and have a much better opportunity to win some games.
As for the Horizon League, I wouldn’t go forward with extending an invitation to anyone just yet, but Saint Louis and/or Oakland should, at the very least, be approached. SLU would likely turn the Horizon League down, as their situation in the A-10 isn’t bad enough travel-wise to make the move to the far better geographical fit of the H-League (or MVC for that matter). Oakland, on the other hand, would be a great fit, evening out the travel partner situation (dropping one Ohio school and adding one in Michigan makes it two from each state: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan).
In any case, I’m just spitballing, but the fact remains it’s plainly clear that the Horizon League and Youngstown State simply aren’t meant for each other.
Video of the Week: By now, you’ve probably seen Green Bay scrub Eric Valentin setting the Guinness record for half court shots in one minute. If you haven’t, indulge your eyes for a moment: