AAC M5: 01.08.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 8th, 2014

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  1. Much has been made of the sellout crowd on hand for the first time in more than a decade in the newly renovated Moody Coliseum during SMU’s recent upset of UConn. But during a recent radio segment, a Dallas Morning News columnist posed the question of whether SMU can sustain the same attendance numbers and energetic atmosphere against lesser visiting opponents. It’s a timely question, given that the Mustangs’ next three opponents are USF, Hofstra and Rutgers. Those games should help us gain a better sense as to whether the UConn crowd was simply lightning in a bottle or indicative of long-term community engagement. Meteoric shifts in fan behavior don’t typically occur overnight, especially for small, long-neglected programs like SMU, but stay tuned.
  2. Memphis strength and conditioning coach Frank Matrisciano has left the program for unspecified reasons after spending two and a half seasons on the Tigers’ staff. The Commercial Appeal reports that the coach was fired by Josh Pastner due to “philosophical differences in strength and conditioning,” but there seems to be more to this story. Did we mention that Matrisciano is Pastner’s brother-in-law? The coach, whose preferred title at Memphis was reportedly “Life Changer,” said that he had originally envisioned spending about a year on the Memphis staff, and felt he had “met all [his] obligations. I felt I blew this place up and turned it on to a whole different level of fitness that they’d never seen before,” he added, somewhat bizarrely. It’s not unreasonable to infer from the abrupt timing and icy comments from both parties that there’s some personal drama underlying Matrisciano’s departure, and it couldn’t come at a worst time with a trip to Louisville looming this week.
  3. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy will have seven scholarship players at his disposal when the Owls take on USF tomorrow night. Recent injuries to 6’7” sophomore Daniel Dingle and 6’8” freshman Mark Williams have been the latest setbacks for a rebuilding Owls team already beset by inexperience and poor depth. While Williams is day-to-day with a sprained ankle and could be available for Saturday’s game against Memphis, there is no timetable in place for Dingle’s return after he underwent surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Dingle and Williams were logging 20 and 18 minutes per game, respectively, and have each started at various points in the season, with Dingle showing signs of major progress before injuring his knee in late December.
  4. Cincinnati and Louisville remain the only AAC teams undefeated in conference play after the Bearcats escaped Houston on the road last night, 61-60. The biggest storyline of the game may have been how well Houston acquitted itself in the second half, clawing back into the conteste despite trailing 40-24 at halftime. It was then that the American Athletic Conference’s most accurate three-point shooting team lived up to its billing, hitting 7-of-10 threes as James Dickey’s squad strived to prove it belongs among the league’s upper echelon. Cincinnati’s press clearly rattled Houston’s players early in the game, as the Bearcats built a 10-0 advantage in steals, but the Cougars steadied once TaShawn Thomas said “we realized we can handle the pressure and play with these guys.” Cincinnati moved to 3-0 in league play and extended its lead in the all-time series versus Houston to 23-1.
  5. With junior Anthony Collins hampered once again by knee problems and no viable backup for Corey Allen, the Tampa Bay Times’ Joey Knight reports that Stan Heath may burn his son’s redshirt for the sake of the team’s point guard depth. Josh Heath earned all-state honors at Tampa Prep last year and has shown a natural grasp of the elder Heath’s offense in practices, according to senior forward Victor Rudd. Knight points out that having the freshman run the point would allow Allen to generate offense more effectively from the two-guard position. “I know he’s not going to be ready ready,” said coach Heath, “but there are some things I think he can do from just making decisions and making plays to make things better and take Corey off the ball a little bit.”
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AAC M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 20th, 2013

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  1. We have yet to write about what will undoubtedly be the biggest story that South Florida is involved in all season, but now seems like as good a time as any. If you are a college basketball fan or just watch a lot of SportsCenter, you probably already know what happened. On Tuesday night South Florida beat Florida Gulf Coast in overtime when officials ruled that the Eagles’ Chase Fieler had possessed the ball before his last-second shot dropped, despite the fact that replays clearly showed Fieler releasing his shot before the red backboard light went on. The NCAA rule book states that once a player “possesses” the ball with 0.3 seconds or fewer remaining on the clock, the play is over, which is different from the NBA’s rule of 0.2 seconds. Fieler pretty much proved that this rule needs to be changed downward, but don’t blame the referees, they were doing their jobs correctly. Instead blame the NCAA rules committee, which, as CBSSports.com points out, won’t be able to change this rule until at least the 2015-16 season. That said, why does the NCAA even have this rule on the books — couldn’t the referees just rely on instant replay to see if he got the shot off in time? We are AAC bloggers, so we have an interest in seeing the teams in the conference win more than they lose, but even we can admit that the Eagles got jobbed on this one. The Bulls are now 8-2 and keep winning, but they didn’t inspire much confidence last night in a three-point victory over 2-9 Florida A&M.
  2. SMU won’t officially begin moving into the newly renovated Moody Coliseum until the team returns home to play Connecticut in early January, but this is nice timing for a Mustangs squad that will be looking to generate excitement for the start of conference play. The uneven play of conference members has only served to bolster opinion of SMU’s dark horse status, but they first need to prove they can beat a team that’s better than Texas A&M. The Mustangs plunked down $47 million for this new arena and it is a big reason why the program appears to be on the upswing and looking to move up in the world. With no major college basketball teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one gets the sense that this is a fan base ready to swell if the the Mustangs win, so now it is on the team and go out and earn that local admiration.
  3. Former Rutgers head coach Kevin Bannon probably thought he was flying off the radar until the Mike Rice scandal broke and all of sudden his name was back in the news as a point of reference. He is now back in the news again, although this time under much friendlier circumstances. This story is a few days old, but The Star-Ledger went down memory lane to a time when men were men and coaches held strip free-throwing shooting contests. For the most part, the now infamous Bannon seems to have mellowed out and is even the Executive Director of the Mercer County Parks Commission. He admits he was “pretty intense” as a coach, which is probably an understatement given the circumstances, but he and his family seem to be at peace with their lives now. This story doesn’t really have a point, I just felt like pointing out that strip free-throw shooting contests have got to be one of the weirdest ways anyone has been fired, because I had nearly forgotten about the strange story altogether.
  4. Although he will remain trapped behind Chris Jones at the point guard position this season, it is only a good thing for Louisville that freshman point guard Terry Rozier is starting to get his sea legs. The 6’1″ Rozier was a beast on the boards against an inferior Missouri State team, corralling eight rebounds and acting as a key contributor in the Cardinals’ win. It would be nice if Rozier was eight inches taller and played power forward, because Louisville is already plenty deep in the backcourt this year. But regardless of where he plays, Rozier’s athleticism will be a major asset for Rick Pitino this year and into the future.
  5. People equate Joe Lunardi‘s name with bracketology, but people outside of the Northeast rarely know that he is also something of a college basketball staple in Philadelphia, where he does radio commentary for Saint Joseph’s. He dropped some quick truth bombs recently when he was asked about Temple, telling Philly.com that the Owls “weakened its best sport, basketball, to a degree, to once again feed a football beast that has been largely unloved for 30 years.” I won’t pretend I understand the ins and outs of what is going on at Temple and its athletic department, but I know enough and trust Lunardi enough to be ticked off by what he is saying. Why does Temple care so much about football? They will never be better than mediocre; they play in a terrible conference; and theywill never be worth all the money the school has sunk into it. Lunardi even points out that the Owls have a golden opportunity to return to basketball glory in a conference with arguably less talent (especially next year), but a much higher profile. Let’s be smart about this and focus on that instead here, guys.
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AAC M5: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on October 15th, 2013

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  1. In light of indications that Kevin Ware will dress for Louisville’s first game on November 9, RTC writer C.D. Bradley points out that Ware is poised to contribute the same crucial element he brought to the Cardinals’ backcourt last year: length. With defensive stalwart Peyton Siva out of the picture and 5’10″ JuCo point guard Chris Jones expected to start alongside Russ Smith, the ability to plug a rangy 6’2″ Ware into defensive situations will be an indispensable luxury for coach Rick Pitino. Aside from his familiarity with Pitino’s elaborate defense and the disruptive presence he provided as a sophomore, Bradley observes that Ware’s scoring efficiency belies his reputation as a specialist, as he led the Cardinals with 40.6% three-point shooting on (an admittedly limited) 37 attempts last year.
  2. In addition to his contributions on the court, Ware’s role as a program ambassador has apparently paid dividends for Rick Pitino, as recent acquisition Chris Jones said at media day that Ware’s endorsement was “a big reason” behind his decision to attend Louisville. The two former Tennessee signees have apparently been close friends since middle school, and Jones recalled “when he said he liked Coach [Pitino], the city and the fans, I was like ‘Yeah, I have to come here.” Louisville fans are likely very thankful for Ware’s recruitment efforts, as Jones led all scorers with 24 points and outdueled Russ Smith in his team’s most recent Red-White Scrimmage.
  3. Evaluating the trajectories of AAC teams heading into the 2013-14 season, SI.com‘s Chris Johnson characterizes UConn and Temple as the teams with the most obvious positive and negative momentum, respectively. Citing the quality and depth of a frontcourt set to feature Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun and productive GW transfer Lasan Kromah, Johnson writes that the Huskies are poised to compete for the inaugural AAC title despite concerns about rebounding. As for Temple, the loss of four of the team’s five leading scorers is expected to pose a significant obstacle to the Owls’ bid to extend their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament berths to seven. Johnson suggests that Temple is likely to remain competitive but finish outside of the top three in an unfortunately-timed rebuilding year.
  4. Despite accumulating a losing record in his first year at the helm, SMU coach Larry Brown has already notched several watershed recruiting coups in his short time on campus. One of a number of standout newcomers at Brown’s disposal this year is 6’11″ first-team junior college All-American Yanick Moreira, who was recently listed among the nation’s 10 “impact junior college transfers” by NBC Sports. The Angola native averaged 18.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game at South Plains College in Texas, and figures to help complement high-profile freshman Keith Frazier as SMU seeks to establish a foundation to build upon once blue-chip 2014 recruit Emmanuel Mudiay arrives.
  5. In other SMU news, the school is expected to begin allowing beer and wine sales at football and basketball home games beginning in January 2014. The Dallas Morning News reports that SMU administrators plan to debut beer sales at Mustangs basketball games at the January 4 men’s game against UConn, which will coincide with the reopening of Moody Coliseum following some $47 million in renovations. Athletic Director Rick Hart said that the measure was part of strategic efforts to increase attendance, meet the expectations of Mustang fans, and align the school with the policies of some of its new peers in the AAC. Hart conceded that “it’s not a magic bullet… not something that’s going to resolve all our desires to increase attendance,” and said the school was working with its concessions vendor to develop procedures that discourage underage consumption and binge drinking.
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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2009

Allen R. of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

The moment of truth for Conference USA has come and in the next couple of weeks there will be major tests for the flagship program of the conference:  Memphis.

But the biggest story still is the fact that the Tigers have dominated in a year that for all intents and purposes was supposed to be a down year.

1.) Two More Tests for the Tigers:  There are only 4 games left on their schedule, but 2 of them will pose serious challenges for Memphis, who is currently 12-0 in Conference USA. Last Saturday UTEP gave the Tigers a tough game before losing 70-63. The first challenge will come this Wednesday night on the road against UAB. In a conference desperate for some true rivalries, a heated one is developing between the Tigers and Blazers. The last game ended in an ugly altercation between Memphis players and the UAB student section after a hard-fought Tiger win. There probably won’t be an altercation this year, but I still expect a hard-fought game. Keep in mind that in 2006 the Blazers handed the Tigers their last CUSA loss. If the Blazers don’t stop the Tigers, Houston hosts the Tigers for their last road game of the year and the Cougars will try to recapture the same magic that led to a 2005 upset in Houston.

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