RTC Conference Primers: #21 – Atlantic Sun Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2011

Will Rothschild is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun. You can find him on Twitter at @warothschild.

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Belmont’s Last Dance In The A-Sun: In May, realignment hit the conference when it was announced that Belmont will join the Ohio Valley Conference starting in the 2012-13 season, meaning this campaign will mark the Bruins’ A-Sun swan song. The repeal of a stipulation requiring every OVC program to field a football team (which Belmont doesn’t have) appeared to be the final hurdle. Belmont’s new home is a step up in terms of competition and is more favorable for its travel schedule.  As the Bruins have represented the Atlantic Sun in the NCAA Tournament four of the last six seasons, a new leader will have to rise.

Mick Hedgepeth Leads Belmont In Its Final Season As A Member Of The Atlantic Sun. (Getty Images)

  • New Coaches To Watch: On paper, the A-Sun’s three first-year coaches look to be as good a collective group as has ever entered the conference. How they deliver – and how quickly – both on the court and in recruiting will be worth watching. All three – Casey Alexander at Stetson, Andy Enfield at Florida Gulf Coast, and Lewis Preston at Kennesaw State – inherit programs that lost 20 or more games last season. All three also are first-time head coaches who were highly-regarded assistants at successful programs: Alexander at Belmont, Enfield at Florida State, and Preston at Notre Dame, Florida (where he was on the staff of the repeat title teams in ’06 and ’07) and Penn State.
  • ETSU Hopes To Stay Afloat: In eight seasons in Johnson City, coach Murray Bartow has taken the Bucs to three NCAA Tournaments while averaging just under 20 wins per season and finishing third or better in the standings five times. Most recently, the Bucs enjoyed a 24-win campaign in 2010-11, earning a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and advancing to the semifinals of that event, marking the first time in school history the team had captured two postseason victories in the same season. During the regular season, the Bucs enjoyed their highest RPI ranking since 2004, and won road games against quality opponents such as Mississippi State and Dayton. But to keep ETSU near the top of the A-Sun this year will require Bartow to do one of his best jobs. Gone are POY Mike Smith and two other standouts who combined to average more than 42 points per game, a whopping 60 percent of ETSU’s offensive production. Bartow welcomes in another highly-regarded recruiting class and welcomes back 6’4″ forward Tommy Hubbard, a major talent who missed all but four games last season with an injury. How well Hubbard regains his old form and meshes with the talented newcomers will determine whether this proud program maintains its traditional perch among the top three or gets overtaken by one of several improving programs.
  • Bruins Poised For A Cinderella Run: For what has become one of the best mid-major programs in the country, the only thing missing on Belmont’s“To Do” list is a run in the NCAA Tournament. After nearly knocking off Duke in 2008, the 13th-seeded Bruins lost to four-seed Wisconsin last March and are seeking their fifth NCAA tournament trip in the past seven seasons. So Belmont is well past any “We’re just glad to be here” feelings about making it to the Dance. With four starters and all but two of its 11-player rotation back from a 30-5 (19-1 A-Sun) team, the Bruins have the look of a team that could become a national darling in March.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic Sun

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2011

Bucky Dent is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

A Look Back

  • The Agony Ends… and Resumes: While no one picked Kennesaw State to win the conference this year, no one thought it would have a ten-game losing streak, either. But that‘s what happened as the Owls played poor defense and were too shot-dependent. KSU broke the spell with a 78-71 home win against USC Upstate Jan. 3, with the Spartans getting 23 points from Kelvin McConnell and 16 rebounds from Aaron Anderson. But it went back to losing two nights later when it allowed East Tennessee State to light it up for 51 percent shooting in an 80-69 decision.
  • Stetson Makes Lipscomb Smell: While no one would dare pick the Hatters over the Bisons in a seven-game series, Stetson did send the conference a message January 3 with a 76-66 upset in DeLand, Florida. Freshman point guard Corey Walden lit it up for 23 points and eight assists as the Hatters erupted for 58 points in the second half. It was another reminder why Lipscomb, as currently constituted, might never win anything that truly matters. It just doesn’t make enough of a commitment to defense.
  • Player of the Week: Adam Sollazzo, East Tennessee State: It‘s safe to say no one saw this coming. Sollazzo lost his job less than a month ago as coach Murray Bartow tried a point guard-less lineup for three games. Now he‘s the king of the A-Sun hill after averaging 16 points and 4.5 assists per game in wins over Mercer and Kennesaw State, canning a game-winning shot against Mercer. Just missing the gold medal is teammate Mike Smith, who averaged 14.3 points and nine rebounds during the Bucs’ trip to Cancun, and North Florida’s Parker Smith, who dropped 20 and 25 points on Maryland and Kansas State, respectively, in the dying days of 2010.

Power Rankings

1. Belmont (12-3, 4-0)
Next Week: 1/8 vs. North Florida, 1/10 vs. Jacksonville, 1/13 vs. Lipscomb

The beat goes on for the Bruins, which followed a solid non-conference win over Miami (OH) with easy conference road wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson. Coach Rick Byrd netted the 500th win of his impressive career at Stetson and figures to tack on about 15 more to that total this year. Byrd unleashed his bench on the Hatters and it made the difference as they outscored Stetson‘s reserves 44-2, led by 14 from freshman J.J. Mann. Belmont‘s dominance has caught the eye of mid-major pollsters that are making it a regular in their top 25s. If this continues, a nation may notice this squad in March.

2. Jacksonville (9-3, 3-0)
Next Week: 1/8 at Lipscomb, 1/10 at Belmont, 1/13 vs. USC Upstate

For just the second time in their A-Sun tenure, the Dolphins have won their first three conference games. To match a 5-0 start in 2007-08, all they have to do is sweep their Nashville road trip against Lipscomb and Belmont. Don’t discount this undersized but super-quick team, which has had seven different players lead the team in scoring during the first 12 games. JU continues to play excellent first-shot defense (40.7 field goal percentage, 29.2 3-point percentage) and force turnovers at a clip of more than 17 per game. One major concern is that it’s making only 62.5 percent of its free throws.

3. East Tennessee State (8-7, 3-1)
Next week: 1/8 vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 1/10 vs. Stetson, 1/13 at North Florida

Looks like a return to A-Sun play was the cure for what ailed the Bucs. In the last four games, they‘ve topped 70 points three times, thanks largely to Sollazzo‘s increased contribution on offense. Mike Smith and Justin Tubbs have found the range more lately, but the biggest news is the team‘s commitment to the “pack line“ defense invented by Dick Bennett and perfected by Tony Bennett during his time at Washington State. With the exception of allowing Kennesaw State to hit 51 percent from the floor, the Buccaneers have taken to the pack approach. The roll should continue against Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson.

4. Lipscomb (8-5, 3-1)
Next Week: 1/8 vs. Jacksonville, 1/10 vs. North Florida, 1/13 at Belmont

Coach Scott Sanderson said it best after the Bisons‘ inexplicable loss to Stetson January 3. “There are no free games in this league. That loss stung. There’s no way around it.” There’s also no way around the fact that this team refuses to make a consistent commitment to defense, which isn’t just something you can do when you feel like it. That Lipscomb continues to permit opponents to score 78.5 ppg and shoot better than 45 percent indicates that either Sanderson’s message isn’t getting through or that there are a bunch of below-average defenders on this roster. Until Adnan Hodzic, Josh Slater and Co. mix in a few possessions of defense with their fun-to-watch offense, they won’t win any championships.

5. North Florida: (5-9, 2-1)
Next Week: 1/8 at Belmont, 1/10 at Lipscomb, 1/13 vs. East Tennessee State

OK, so the Ospreys are 5-9 and Campbell is 7-6. Yet we rank them about the Camels for two reasons — head-to-head result and strength of schedule. Not only did North Florida win straight-up January 5 in Buies Creek, it’s played a brutal schedule, cashing checks in exchange for beatings and lessons. What we’ve learned about coach Matthew Driscoll’s team is that when they play someone their own size (i.e.: the A-Sun), they’re pretty darn competitive. The addition of Parker Smith has given this team a breakout scorer they didn’t have last year. The Ospreys will stay around .500 in the league and beat people they shouldn’t.

6. Campbell: (7-6, 1-3)
Next Week: 1/7 vs. Kennesaw State, 1/10 vs. Mercer

Losing at two-time A-Sun tourney champion ETSU is one thing. Losing at home against a Jacksonville team good enough to win at Florida is another. Losing at home against undermanned North Florida is inexcusable. Yet the Camels did it in spite of shooting 55 percent from the field. The most shocking thing about this defeat was that they committed 26 turnovers against an Ospreys team which isn’t known for its fierce defensive pressure. Even point guard Junard Hartley, who’s normally careful with the ball, hacked up five turnovers. Campbell needs to sweep the Georgia schools because its Nashville trip awaits.

7. Stetson (4-10, 2-2)
Next week: 1/8 at USC Upstate, 1/10 at East Tennessee State

It says something for the Hatters that their 17-point loss to Belmont on Wednesday was the closest any A-Sun team has come to the Bruins so far. Their upset of Lipscomb should tell everyone in the conference not to take it easy when visiting central Florida. The 1-2 punch of Corey Walden and Ridge Graham looks like quite a nucleus for emotional coach Derek Waugh, who appears to have found another good piece in 6‘8, 280-pound freshman center Steve Forbes. He’s taken a spot in the starting lineup and delivered a 12-point outing against Belmont.

8. Mercer (4-11, 1-3)
Next week: 1/10 at Campbell

There may be no hotter player in the league at the moment besides senior forward Brian Mills, who has reached double figures in eight straight games, going off for a career-high 30 points in a January 5 win over USC Upstate. Mills is averaging 19.3 ppg and 8.8 rebounds in conference games. Now for the bad news: Besides the losing, 35 of the team’s 41 double-figure scoring games this year have come from seniors. It sure doesn’t say much for the seven players coach Bob Hoffman recruited. Unless some players suddenly blossom over the next 16 games, Mercer could miss the conference tournament on its home floor.

9. Kennesaw State: (3-11, 1-3)
Next week: 1/7 at Campbell

There are some good individual performances going on this year, such as the rebounding of Aaron Anderson, who hauled in 16 against USC Upstate, and the play of point guard Spencer Dixon, who‘s become one of the league‘s top combo guards. But there is nothing good going on when it comes to defense. Opponents are hitting 47.3 percent of their field goals and averaging more than 76 points per game. Its regression from last year makes this the conference’s biggest disappointment to this point.

10. USC Upstate: (2-12, 1-3)
Next week: 1/8 vs. Stetson, 1/10 vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 1/13 at Jacksonville

It‘s becoming apparent that as the losses pile up, the Spartans are still giving their fans hope for next year and the year beyond. Freshmen Torrey Craig and Babatunde Olumuyiwa are forming what could be a pretty good 1-2 punch in the frontcourt, while another freshman, Chandler Hash, is beginning to look like a guy who can hit 3-pointers in bunches. Home games against the central Florida schools this week could give Upstate a shot at back-to-back wins.

11. Florida Gulf Coast: (3-10, 0-4)
Next Week: 1/8 at East Tennessee State, 1/10 at USC Upstate

Well, the weather is great in Ft. Myers and the Eagles’ blue/green color scheme is easy on the eyes. And their women‘s basketball team might be headed for an unbeaten regular season, even though it‘s unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament since the school is in its final season of reclassification. As for the men? Suffice it to say that opponents are averaging more than 79 points per game and that the offense can’t shoot from the field (40 percent), the three-point line (30.4 percent) or the foul line (63.8). No matter how much the 1-2 punch of Anthony Banks and Reed Baker do, it’s not enough.

Playing the Percentages

Every week, we‘ll take a look at an intriguing trend around the conference and decide fluke or trend. This week, it’s the recent scoring surge of ETSU junior Adam Sollazzo, who’s averaged  15 points over the last four games after averaging 3.9 PPG in the first 11 games and losing his starting job. We’re going to say fluke, because Sollazzo has never come close to scoring like this for any stretch of time until now. But if Sollazzo keeps averaging double figures, the Bucs become a lot more dangerous in this league.

A Look Ahead

Now things start to get interesting in the league, as the top teams run into each other in a series of matchups that could crystalize the pecking order going forward.

  • Jacksonville takes its yearly Nashville road trip, playing Lipscomb and then Belmont. A sweep seems unlikely, but a split would be a very solid showing for the Dolphins.
  • After they play the Jacksonville schools, Belmont and Lipscomb get together for the first of their meetings at Belmont.
  • Meanwhile, ETSU has a chance to take on more wins against very beatable foes when it hosts Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson, then visits North Florida.
  • Stetson tries to keep one of the weirdest trends in the conference going when it travels to ETSU. It’s won the last two games in Johnson City and some feel it’s because coach Derek Waugh, who played at Furman when the Bucs enjoyed their glory days of a generation ago, gets his team more ready for this game than for others.
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Bracket Prep: Cornell, Winthrop, ETSU, Murray State

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

As we move through the next eight days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  As of Sunday morning, there have been four auto-bids handed out.  Here are those primers.

#1. Cornell Big Red (27-4, 13-1 Ivy) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #11-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. Cornell is the nation’s top three-point shooting team, hitting 43.4% of their attempts from deep and scoring nearly 39% of their total points from outside the arc.  The Big Red hit twenty in their bid-clinching game against Brown on Friday night.  They have five players who have made 30+ this year; you simply cannot leave these guys open.
  2. In their five games against BCS teams this year, Cornell was 2-3.  The wins were against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and St. John’s in NYC. Digging deeper, though, we find that two of the three losses were to #1 seeds Syracuse (by 15) and Kansas (by 6).  In those losses, Brandon Triche and Sherron Collins tore them up, exposing a vulnerability to athletic, scoring point guards who attack the basket.
  3. The core trio of Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale will not get rattled — they’re all seniors playing in their third straight NCAA Tournament.  They have proven they can score with anyone; the problem will be if they are matched up against a team that is equally offensive minded, as the Cornell defense has trouble getting stops.

Good Matchups: Wisconsin; Gonzaga

Bad Matchups: Baylor, Georgetown

#2. Winthrop Eagles (19-13, 12-6 Big South) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #16

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Checking in on… the Atlantic Sun

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

Ryan Dunn in the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Current Standings

  1. Campbell (11-6, 6-2 A-Sun)
  2. East Tennessee State (10-9, 6-2 A-Sun)
  3. Mercer                                    (9-8, 5-2 A-Sun)
  4. Jacksonville (9-8, 6-3 A-Sun)
  5. Lipscomb                               (9-9, 6-3 A-Sun)
  6. Belmont (10-9, 5-4 A-Sun)
  7. North Florida (9-11, 4-6 A-Sun)
  8. USC Upstate                          (3-15, 3-6 A-Sun)
  9. Florida Gulf Coast (5-12, 2-6 A-Sun)
  10. Stetson                                    (4-12, 2-6 A-Sun)
  11. Kennesaw State (6-12, 1-6 A-Sun)

News and Notes

This could end up being one of the tightest races of any conference in America at the end of the year.  Six out of eleven teams are within two games of the league leaders.  Teams in the A-Sun play each other twice and we are just about one full time around.  Campbell’s Jonathan Rodriguez has now become the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,948 career points and still plenty of games left to separate himself.  He has also set the school record for career rebounding and is the current NCAA leader in career free throws made.

Remember, only six teams make it to the year end Atlantic Sun tournament.  USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast are still not eligible for post season play after completing their transition from Division II.  So that leaves nine eligible teams for post season play and means Stetson and Kennesaw State have some real work to do in order to make up ground and earn a berth.

  • Campbell was off to a sizzling 6-1 start to conference play and held a one game lead.  However, the Camels are in the middle of a brutal road swing with trips to traditional powers Belmont, Lipscomb, and East Tennessee State.  The Camels are already 0-1 on the trip with a loss to a struggling Belmont team.  Campbell is traditionally a struggling road team and they MUST win at least a game on this trip.
  • East Tennessee State always seems to be at the top of the league standings even with a slow start.  This year is no different as head coach Murray Bartow had to reload with newcomers and needed some guys to play a much bigger role than they have in the previous year.  Well, the Bucs are right there at the top and are fresh off a huge victory at Lipscomb just last night.  ETSU struggles at time from the perimeter but they are quick and athletic.
  • Mercer keeps on winning basketball games as they have now reeled off five straight W’s in conference play.  They have many weapons including two all-conference performers in James Florence and Daniel Emerson.  The Bears do play a handful of players over 30 minutes a game so lets see if that could have an effect on them at the end of the year.  But for now, the Bears look to be a top contender.
  • Jacksonville has now won six straight games after opening conference play 0-3.  The Dolphins were picked by most to win the league and they are very much in it.  The Dolphins are finally getting healthy and they are a scary team heading into the second half of conference play.  JU is fresh off a victory against cross town rival North Florida.
  • Lipscomb has been playing better of late — especially defensively —  but lost a little momentum after falling at home to ETSU just last night.  The Bisons must be careful because they have a quick turnaround with league-leading Campbell coming in on Saturday.  If Lipscomb were to lose that one, it could really set them back in the conference race.
  • Belmont is a team that plays extremely hard and they play a very sound style of basketball.  This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for head coach Rick Byrd but his team looks to be one that could be in the race at year’s end.  They have a very young backcourt, and, if they can continue to grow, they truly have a chance.  The Bruins have also gained some momentum after upsetting Campbell at home last night.
  • North Florida is a fun team to follow and it should be interesting to see if the Ospreys can continue to win games and perhaps sneak into the conference tournament.  They have not played their best in the last week or so but they are still more than capable of sneaking up on a league heavyweight.  UNF is a team that plays extremely hard for new head coach Matthew Driscoll.

Key Upcoming Games

  • Campbell @ Lipscomb (1/23) – Two teams that are amongst the league leaders and could really shake up the conference standings.
  • ETSU @ Belmont (1/23) – Huge game for both teams as ETSU is looking to stay at the top, while Belmont is just trying to stay in the mix.
  • Lipscomb @ Belmont (1/26) – Round two of the “Battle of the Boulevard” as Lipscomb took round one, now Belmont gets a turn at home.
  • Campbell @ ETSU (1/27) – The two top teams in the league will do battle in Johnson City to complete the first rotation of conference play.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic Sun

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2009

Ryan Dunn is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Current Standings

  1. Belmont                              (7-4, 2-0 A-Sun)
  2. Campbell                            (6-4, 2-0 A-Sun)
  3. East Tennessee State        (6-7, 2-0 A-Sun)
  4. Florida Gulf Coast             (4-6, 1-0 A-Sun)
  5. Kennesaw State                 (4-7, 1-1 A-Sun)
  6. Lipscomb                            (4-7, 1-1 A-Sun)
  7. USC Upstate                      (1-10, 1-1 A-Sun)
  8. Stetson                                (2-7, 0-1 A-Sun)
  9. Mercer                               (4-7, 0-2 A-Sun)
  10. North Florida                    (4-7. 0-2 A-Sun)
  11. Jacksonville                     (1-7, 0-2 A-Sun)

Hottest Team

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have not had much success since their transition to the Division I level to this point.  However, this current stretch might be their most successful that includes one of their best wins in program history.  Just the other night the Eagles knocked off Big East member DePaul in front of their home crowd.  The win was the first for the Eagles against a Big East opponent.  FGCU has now won four games in a row which is their longest streak since becoming a Division I member.  Sophomore point guard Reggie Chambers has been stellar during the winning streak.  He has won back-to-back A-Sun player of the week honors, the first player this season to do so.  He along with Reed Baker and Anthony Banks can make this team a legitimate threat in the A-Sun race.

Biggest Disappointment

The Jacksonville Dolphins were predicted by many to win the conference this season.  I had them picked second but nonetheless the Dolphins are playing bad basketball right now.  They have started out league play at 0-2, losing by a combined 39 points in their first two A-Sun games to Campbell and ETSU.  I thought that perhaps their brutal non-conference schedule would better prepare them for league play but that has not been the case at all.  The Dolphins are only averaging 63 points per contest while giving up 78 points per game and allowing teams to shoot close to 52 percent from the floor.  Their field goal percentage defense is last in the league.  The Dolphins are also last in the league in assist to turnover ratio.  Most thought this season could be the one for the Dolphins to finally win the league as they return four starters from last season’s runner-up team.  JU still has plenty of time left to get it back together but they need to get back on track sooner rather than later.

Best of the Rest

  • Belmont - After being the league’s hottest team two weeks ago, the Bruins have dropped two straight.  However, the most important thing is that they are still perfect in league play as the holidays are here.  Coach Rick Byrd always seems to get the very most out of his teams so I expect the Bruins to be in contention in league play.
  • Campbell - The Camels came out flat against UNC-Wilmington as they fell by 20 to the Seahawks and it looked to be the start of a losing streak.  However, Campbell got it back together by knocking off conference foe Jacksonville by 16 at home.  The Camels are off to a nice 2-0 start to league play and that is the most important thing, but coach Robbie Laing has to be disappointed with his team’s effort against Longwood.  The Lancers built a 20-point lead and held off a late Campbell run to win by eight.  Campbell is still in good shape and looks to be a major contender in the A-Sun.
  • ETSU – The Bucs pounded Jacksonville by 23 just a few nights ago to improve to 2-0 in the league.  I wasn’t sure how the team would come out this season after losing their top two scorers from a year ago, but coach Murray Bartow has reloaded with more athleticism and speed, and has his team playing with a lot of energy.  The Bucs will certainly compete at the top of the league and will be looking for their second straight A-Sun title and NCAA berth.
  • Kennesaw State - The Owls have dropped three straight but all have come against formidable opponents and all have been on the road.  Freshman Markeith Cummings continues to impress as he is the league’s third leading scorer at over 17 per game.  With more athleticism than in years past I expect this team to make a little noise as conference play continues after the holidays.
  • Lipscomb – The Bisons continue to struggle as they stumble into the holidays losers of two straight.  However, those two games were against Cincinnati and Arizona.  They were blown out by the Bearcats but went to overtime with ‘Zona, falling by just a point on a controversial buzzer-beater by Nic Wise.  The Bisons are still dead last in the league in scoring defense (83.4 ppg) and are tenth in the conference in field goal percentage (50.6%).  The defense must get better quick if Lipscomb wants to compete at the top of the league.
  • Mercer – The Bears continue to struggle as they have lost two straight games.  However, both losses have come to SEC heavyweights Vanderbilt and Alabama.  The most disappointing part is that the Bears have not been competitive at all in those games.  Mercer needs to get things rolling in a hurry as conference play is creeping up very quickly in the coming weeks.
  • North Florida – The Ospreys have continued to play hard under new head coach Matthew Driscoll and have won three straight contests by knocking off Canisius and New Orleans in the Southern Miss Christmas Classic before defeating Southern Miss in the championship game.  It could very well be the most successful stretch of games for UNF as a Division I member.  This team plays extremely hard and teams in this league cannot sleep on them when conference play gets into full force.
  • Stetson – There is really no way around but the Hatters just might be the worst team in the league at this point.  Their only two wins have come against non-Division I opponents but I don’t expect too many victories from this team.  Guard A.J. Smith (13.4 ppg) is the only legitimate scoring threat for the Hatters.  Stetson is near the bottom of the league in just about every offensive category and I don’t expect it to get much better as conference play approaches.
  • USC Upstate – The Spartans got off to a nice start at Arizona State just yesterday and only fell to the Sun Devils by nine.  The Spartans have a nice starting five but are not particularly deep and that will continue to hurt them.  Still, Upstate is well coached and should cause some problems in league play.

Key Upcoming Games

  • Mercer @ UNC Charlotte (12/29) – Mercer has the talent to compete against high major opponents.  Charlotte has gotten off to a blistering start with their only losses coming at the hands off Duke and ODU.
  • Belmont @ Kansas (12/29) – An extremely tough post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s battle against the number one team in the land in Allen Fieldhouse.  Belmont plays hard but they will be physically outmanned and I don’t expect it to be close.
  • FGCU @ Stetson (12/29) – FGCU can join the top of the league if they can knock off the Hatters on the road.  The Eagles must win games like this in order to finish in the upper tier of the league.
  • Mercer @ Jacksonville (1/2) – Big conference showdown between two struggling teams.  The winner can perhaps build some momentum as league play gets going.  The loser may have a rough ride in the A-Sun.
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07.23.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2009

It’s actually been a fairly busy week in the world of college hoops despite the mid-summer lull, so let’s take a look at some of the other key stories coming down the pike…

  • Hoop Dreams, 15 Years Later.  This week in his Hoops Thoughts column, Seth Davis pushed us down memory lane to the grungy days of 1994, a year of Cobain, Madonna’s undies and OJ’s white Bronco, but also of a bedraggled jewel of a documentary called “Hoop Dreams.”  We have a fair amount of younger readers on this site, so if you’ve never seen this movie, stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, and rent it on Netflix or your local movie shop.  It is without question the best basketball film ever made.  Davis’ summary of the movie is good so we won’t belabor that here, but even fifteen years later, the movie holds its color, bouquet and taste much better than most items from that era.  We slightly quibble with Davis on his contention that HD was the first reality tv (The Real World says hello) or that the two players featured in the film, William Gates and Arthur Agee, were ordinary people (their extraordinary skills at basketball at a young age is what made them not ordinary), but we completely agree with his fundamental assessment that the authenticity behind these two players’ struggles still resonates today.  The early 90s, when Gates and Agee were documented in the film, was an era at the edge of a precipice in two key cultural shifts that are still impacting the game: 1) the worldwide online revolution of 1995, which has impacted scouting and recruiting in an exponential fashion now that players can be commodified based on Youtube clips and independent assessments from anywhere on the globe; and 2) Kevin Garnett’s decision to go to the NBA straight out of HS in 1995 led to a sea change in how high school players were viewed, pushing scouting (and dreams of riches) earlier and earlier into a player’s development.  From a re-viewing of the movie in 2009, it’s easy to see the seeds of World Wide Wes and his ilk as assembly-line talent evaluator-cum-agents strategically dropping their whispers of fame and fortune into player family’s ears at a young age.  What was once limited to the bigger cities and at a much smaller scale is now ubiquitous; where elite players were once counseled by their coach (as in, their HS coach, not their AAU coach), they now listen to runners and quasi-representatives from shoe companies.  All of the dirty elements that are plaguing today’s amateur player development and the college game are there on display, in a rawer, more transparent form, in Hoop Dreams.  The authenticity of how the system uses these players, only to spit them out when they’re no longer useful, is front and center – how have things changed?  Thanks to Seth for re-awakening everyone to this movie – it’s a must-see.     
  • SEC-TV.  Starting this fall, the SEC announced that it will broadcast an all-SEC sports network as part of its new $2.25B deal with ESPN.  The SEC Network (through ESPN Regional) will syndicate its college football and basketball games to 73 (and counting) markets, but what makes this announcement particularly compelling is how the SEC has strategically decided to move outside its traditional nine-state southeastern footprint for this deal.  Local affiliates in the major markets of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as the three major Texas cities, are included in this deal, which unequivocally shows that the SEC isn’t playing games in terms of its foray to dominate college sports through national recruiting.  Where this could really pay dividends is not with the Kentuckys and Floridas, but with the Mississippi States and the Georgias of the SEC.  If games involving those teams are on tv in major media markets showing recruits a fun, winning style, they might be more inclined to consider going there over local state U.  How will the other leagues react?
  • F the Gazelle Group.  They’re back again this season with another faux-tournament in the form of the Legends Classic.  Remember our piece shredding them on this last year?  If you don’t, here’s a refresher.  The Gazelle Group got upset when little Gardner-Webb upset Kentucky in Rupp two years ago during a preliminary round game, meaning that the legions of UK fans they expected to buy tickets the next week weren’t showing.  So what’d they do the next year – they fixed the tournament!  Yep, all four of the ‘host’ teams get automatic entry to the Championship Rounds (final four teams) despite what happens in the prelims.  Total asinine garbage.  This year’s four faux-champs?  Michigan St., Rutgers, Florida and UMass.  MSU-Florida could be interesting, and definitely keep an eye on summer hotshot Mike Rosario from Joisey (playing in AC). 
  • Quick Hits.  Anthony Mason, Jr.: back in a Johnnies uni for 09-10.  Jim Calhoun: still going full boreJosh Selby/World Wide Wes: that’s just messed upWooden Classic: Georgetown v. Washington; UCLA v. Mississippi St.  Coach K: are Duke fans mad atchaMurray Bartow: 2-year extension at ETSU.  Dickie V: Summer Rolls-RoycersTop 25 Recruits: broken downGary Parrish: on the summer circuitSix OTs: enjoyAntonio Burks: recovering after robbery where he was shot.  Centenary: downgrading to D3WCC Tourney: in Vegas through 2012 (at least).  2010 Vegas Odds: sell Louisville
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NCAA Preview: East Tennessee State Buccaneers

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

East Tennessee St.  (#16, East, Dayton pod)

vs. Pittsburgh (#1)
Mar. 20 @ 2:55pm
Vegas Line: ETSU +20

General Profile

Location: Johnson City, Tennessee
Conference: Atlantic Sun — Tournament Champion
Coach: Murray Bartow, hired 2003. Record at ETSU = 118-71
08-09 Record: 23-10 (14-6)
Last 12 Games: 8-4, won 5.
Best Win: vs Jacksonville 85-68 on 3/7/09 for the Atlantic Sun title.
Worst Loss: at Florida-Gulf Coast, 61-64, on 1/12/09.
Off. Efficiency Rating: 105.3 (105th)
Def. Efficiency Rating: 100.3 (149rd)

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Kevin Tiggs (6’4″ senior guard), 21.5 ppg on 54% shooting.
Unsung Hero: Mike Smith (6’6″ junior forward), 17.5 ppg/7.7 rpg/1.3 steals/gm.
Potential NBA Draft Pick: None.
Key Injuries: No significant injuries.
Depth: 28.4% mins (230th nationally)
Achilles Heel: Shooting the three. ETSU shoots 33.6%, 184th in the nation.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: …they improve their offensive efficiency. ETSU averages 74 possessions per 40 minutes, which is 17th in the nation. They need to take advantage of each one of them to pull of an upset(s).
Will Make an Early Exit if…: …they can keep their main three players — Tiggs, Smith, and Courtney Pigram — out of foul trouble, since they each play about 34 minutes/game with the other two spots on the floor basically platooned.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2004
Streak: 1
Best NCAA Finish: 1992, Second Round.
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Two of ETSU’s starters (Kevin Tiggs, Greg Hamlin) are from Flint.
Distance to First Round Site: 407 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: ETSU has the only master’s degree program in the discipline of Storytelling.
School Wishes It Could Forget: How everyone violates/ignores last year’s campus-wide smoking ban.
Prediction: First round and out.

Major RTC stories: 4 Tickets Punched, 61 To Go

Preview written by: John Stevens, Rush The Court.

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Conference Primers: #28 – Atlantic Sun

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

North

  1. East Tennessee St. (20-7) (13-3)
  2. Belmont (19-12) (12-4)
  3. Lipscomb (15-15) (10-6)
  4. Campbell (13-16) (7-9)
  5. Gardner-Webb (10-18) (6-10)
  6. South Carolina – Upstate (6-21) (4-12)

South

  1. Jacksonville (17-10) (11-5)
  2. Mercer (17-12) (10-6)
  3. Kennesaw St. (14-14) (10-6)
  4. Stetson (13-15) (8-8)
  5. Florida Gulf Coast (5-23) (3-13)
  6. North Florida (3-24) (2-14)

Atlantic Sun logo

WYN2K. The Atlantic Sun has been an up and down league over the past decade. It spent much of the late 90s and early 2000s as a league hovering at the top of the low-majors (#19-#23 ranked conference most years). But the last two seasons it has fallen hard, finishing as one of the bottom four conferences in the computer rankings both years. Its OOC record (70-174, .287) the last three years is standard for a league at this level. Still, the NCAA typically shows some love to the conference champion, having given the A-Sun only five #16 seeds in 64/65-team era (and two of those were when the league received multiple bids) and peaking with a #11 seed in 2001 (Georgia St. defeated #5 Wisconsin in the first round). The league has earned a #14 or #15 seed each of the last six years, and we see no reason for this to end.

Predicted Champion. East Tennessee St. (#15 Seed NCAA). We see Murray Bartow’s ETSU squad (16-2 last season in the A-Sun) as the team to beat here. They return league POY Courtney Pigram and bring in former juco D2 POY Kevin Tiggs, a combo guard from whom big things are expected immediately. As a program, ETSU is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, having made the Dance two of the last five years (as a member of the Southern Conference) and seven times overall.

Others Considered. The A-Sun North division is clearly the class of the league, containing two-time defending tourney champion Belmont and rising Lipscomb. Belmont is a system program predicated on efficient ball movement (#21 nationally in eFG%) and tight defense (#5 nationally in eFG% defense), but the loss of their two best post men (Boomer Herndon and Andrew Preston) makes it difficult for us to pick them again. Lipscomb is another intriguing choice if for no other reason than they’re hosting the conference tourney this year – oh, and they’re 24-2 at home during the last two seasons. Jacksonville engineered one of the all-time greatest turnarounds last year, going from one win in 2006 to fifteen in 2007, and while they won eight of their last eleven regular season games, we’re not ready to push them past the more experienced teams just yet.

Games to Watch. There’s likely only one A-Sun game probably worth watching this year.

  • Atlantic Sun Championship Game (03.08.08).

RPI Booster Games. The A-Sun has thirty games against BCS opponents scheduled this year, and hopefully it can perform a little better than last year when it was 0-34. There are some opportunities against lower-tier BCS teams, however, in the following list of games:

  • Belmont @ Cincinnati (11.09.07)
  • ETSU @ Georgia (12.21.07)
  • Lipscomb @ Vanderbilt (12.08.07)
  • Campbell @ South Carolina (11.28.08)
  • Jacksonville @ Florida (12.03.07)
  • Alabama @ Mercer (11.13.07)
  • Kennesaw St. @ Auburn (11.13.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. <5%. It’s extremely unlikely that this is a two-bid league, but if any team was going to make it so, it would be ETSU. It would require domination of the league as well as a scintillating non-conference record before they lose in the conference tourney – we don’t see that happening.

Neat-o Stat. We have a couple for the A-Sun. First, North Florida last season enjoyed the dubious distinction of having the least efficent offense in the nation, scoring a mere 79.6 pts per 100 possessions. Secondly, Florida Gulf Coast (one of four transitional schools making the jump to D1 in the A-Sun) is the youngest D1 university in America, having opened its doors to students in 1997.

64/65-Team Era. In 26 appearances, the Atlantic Sun is 3-23 (.115) over the era, scoring the #11 over #6 upset mentioned above, #12 College of Charleston defeating #5 Maryland in 1997, and #14 Arkansas-Little Rock defeating #3 Notre Dame (Digger!) in 1986. That UALR team then took NC State to double OT in the next round before succumbing – that is the closest the league has gotten to the Sweet 16 in its history.

Final Thought. Belmont has gotten destroyed by Georgetown (80-55) and UCLA (78-44) in the last two years in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t appear that their style of play is conducive to pulling off an upset against a bigger, more athletic team. The league would have a much better chance at the first round upset if an uptempo, athletic team like ETSU earns the automatic bid.

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