Morning Five: 05.29.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. If you threw a dart at a map of the United States and it landed somewhere in the hills of Eastern Kentucky or Southwestern Virginia, then drew a circle around that location with a radius of roughly 500 miles in distance, you’d pretty much have nailed down the ‘fertile crescent’ of college basketball. With powerful and tradition-rich programs like North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, along with other well-supported programs like Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton and Wake Forest all within that circle, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that nine of ESPN‘s top 10 rated television markets for college basketball fall within its boundaries. The top 10: Louisville, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Columbus, Charlotte, Knoxville and Nashville. KC, with Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Creighton and Wichita State all somewhat nearby is the only outlier among this group.
  2. You know it’s gotten out of hand if politicians are getting involved, and that appears to now be the case at Rutgers in the latest scandal enveloping the school’s athletic department. Or not getting involved. Or getting involved to say that they’re not getting involved. Whatever. New Jersey governor Chris Christie told listeners on his “Ask the Governor” radio show Tuesday night that he has no plans to intervene in the hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. While it’s no doubt true that Christie has much bigger fish to fry than micromanaging every hiring decision at the state university, it’s worth asking whether any senior athletic department staff is paying attention at all (certainly Christie’s political opponents are doing so). The Mike Rice situation followed by the flub with Eddie Jordan’s resume and now this debacle is highly suggestive of an environment where leadership can’t see what they don’t want to see. It’s incumbent on university president Bob Barchi to get this problem fixed, and soon.
  3. The SEC Tournament may seek to reproduce the success that its football and baseball championships have had at permanent sites — Atlanta and Hoover, Alabama, respectively — by moving to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for good following the 2014 event in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Commissioner Mike Slive was careful to avoid saying the word “permanent,” opting instead to call Music City the “primary” site, but the point is that SEC puppet-masters feel that the relatively central geographic location and easy access for large traveling basketball fan bases such as Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and home team Vanderbilt would merit this (as yet unofficial) decision. Can’t say we disagree. The best conference tournaments are generally in a city that really embraces the event every year, and Nashville seems to enjoy its status as a big-time basketball stronghold during the few times it has gotten to hold the event there.
  4. It’s not often we dig into Division II basketball on this site, but it’s also not common for there to be a formal indictment by a grand jury against a player for murder either. San Francisco State wing Decensae White – formerly of Texas Tech and Santa Clara in 2006-09 — was indicted in Georgia on Tuesday for his alleged role in gunning down a rapper named Lil Phat (nee‘ Melvin Vernell III) as he sat outside a hospital where his girlfriend underwent labor in Atlanta. White gained some degree of national notoriety for hitting a half-court game winner against Cal Poly back in February of this season, as the clip was featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter. White and four other men are due for presentment on these charges later this week.
  5. There was one notable bit of transfer news from Tuesday, as Oregon State’s Ahmad Starks has announced that he will spend the last year of his career at Illinois. He will apply for a family illness waiver to play immediately, as his grandmother is reported to be sick in Chicago. This is a good pickup for John Groce’s squad, as the Illini could use some experienced talent — Starks averaged 10.4 PPG and hit 62 threes last season for the Beavers — to pair in the backcourt with returnees Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand as part of a three-guard set. It may not be a group as talented as last year’s Paul/Richardson/Abrams trio, but it should work well within Groce’s trey-happy system.
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Four Thoughts from Nashville …

Posted by David Changas on March 18th, 2012

Here are few thoughts on Friday’s NCAA Tournament action in Nashville, and a look ahead to Sunday’s action.

1) The first thing that stood out in watching the eight teams in the NCAA Tournament pod in Nashville was the level of parity that was on display, and which is prevalent throughout college basketball.  In the first half of the day’s first game, the East Region’s #11 seed, Texas, took futility to a new level, hitting 4 of 25 shots on its way to a 31-17 halftime deficit against #6 seed Cincinnati. After falling behind by 19 early in the second half, the Longhorns eventually tied the game, which wasn’t decided until the final minutes. In the nightcap, South Florida, the #12 seed in the Midwest Region, made Texas look efficient by going 3 for 27 and scoring 15 points in the first half.  Somehow they trailed Temple by only four, and the Bulls came out of the locker room on fire and shot 60% for the second half on their way to a 58-44 win over #5 seed Temple. That was the largest spread of any of the final scores here.  Each of the day’s games was up for grabs going into the final minutes.

FSU May Be The ACC Champs, But They Had Their Hands Full

Beyond the obvious – that #12 and #13 seeds won here on Friday, and that two #15 seeds won elsewhere on the same day – it is apparent that the disparity in talent between the mid-majors and the BCS schools continues to narrow.  In watching teams in a pod in which there were no 1-16 or 2-15 matchups, it was clear that parity abounds.  St. Bonaventure, the East Region’s #14 seed and the lowest-seeded team here, played ACC Tournament Champion Florida State to the wire and easily could have won the game. The Bonnies were the fourth-best team in what many consider the best mid-major league – Atlantic 10 – and they were able to control most of their battle with arguably the ACC’s best squad.  And while it would have been an upset, no one here would have been shocked if it had happened.  St. Bonaventure had good players, including the sensational Andrew Nicholson, and the overall difference in talent levels between the two squads was not as vast as it may have been in the past.

Transfers are also an important part of this equation. Case in point is Ohio forward Walter Offutt, who left after two years at Ohio State in which he rarely saw the floor. Offutt, a top-100 player coming out of high school, is one of many former high-major players we have seen over the years make a difference at the mid-major level.  He is flourishing in Coach John Groce’s system and is the team’s second leading scorer. While he couldn’t get into the rotation in two years in Columbus, Offutt has flourished in relative obscurity in Athens. He is the type of player that allows a team like Ohio to compete when it faces better competition in March.

Upsets have long been a part of March Madness, but as we see more of them, we should be less surprised. The George Masons, Butlers, and VCUs of the world have shown us that there is plenty of talent outside the BCS leagues, and the parity on display in Nashville on Friday typified that.

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Conference Primers: #27 – Ohio Valley

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. Austin Peay (20-9) (16-4)
  2. Eastern Kentucky (17-11) (14-6)
  3. Murray St. (17-10) (13-7)
  4. Tennessee Tech (17-13) (12-8)
  5. Southeast Missouri (15-14) (11-9)
  6. Eastern Illinois  (13-14) (10-10)
  7. Samford (12-16) (9-11)
  8. Tennessee St. (10-17) (8-12)
  9. Morehead St. (9-18) (8-12)
  10. Jacksonville St. (10-17) (6-14)
  11. Tennessee-Martin (3-23) (3-17)

OVC Logo

WYN2K.  The OVC is a league that has been incredibly up-and-down depending on a given year.  In the last five years its RPI has hovered between the 19th and 25th best conference, and its Sagarin rating between 16th and 26th.  As a testament to its herky-jerkiness, no league champion has received the same seed as the prior year’s champion for the last eight years (13/15/14/13/12/15/14/16).  But if there is one trend worth noting, it is that the league’s overall profile appears to be dropping.  After a seven-year period from 1998-2004 where the league champion averaged a #12.7 seed, the last three seasons have resulted in an average of #15.0.   This is supported by the reality on the court, as no OVC team has won an NCAA Tourney game since the 80s, when Austin Peay (1987), Murray St. (1988), and Middle Tennessee St. (1989) comprised a three-year string of first round upsets. 

Predicted Champion. Austin Peay (#15 Seed NCAA).  This was the easiest pick of the previews yet.  “Let’s Go Peay” returns all five starters (including OVC POY Drake Reed) from a team that was the regular-season champion in 2007, but who lost on a buzzer beater to Eastern Kentucky in improbable fashion.  6’5 forward and resident muscle man Fernandez Lockett is likely another first-team all-OVC selection.   

Others ConsideredEastern Kentucky was the second-best team in the OVC last season, and Jeff Neubauer’s methodical style (310th in tempo nationally) led to EKU rankings near the top of the nation in effective FG% (18th) and two-point FG% (8th).  In other words, the Colonels consistently take and make good shots.  If any team is ready to supplant Austin Peay again, it’s likely to be EKU.  Murray St. is always in the mix in this conference (20 straight winning seasons), and we expect this year to be no different.  The Racers finished strong in 2007 winning eight of their last ten, and return many of their key players from last season.  Another team that finished very strong last year was Tennessee Tech, who won twelve of their last fifteen games as their coach Mike Sutton continued to arduously work his way back from Guillain-Barre Syndrome.       

Games to Watch.  If they OVC Championship game is anything like last year’s, then it should most definitely be on your March viewing calendar. 

  • OVC Championship Game (03.08.08). ESPN.

RPI Booster Games.  Last year the only BCS opponent that the OVC managed to defeat was Northwestern (by Tennessee Tech) at a neutral site.  Otherwise, the league was 0-20 against BCS teams.  We’ve identified several opportunities for an OVC squad to pull an upset this year to help the league’s overall RPI. 

  • Tennessee Tech @ Rutgers (11.09.07)
  • Austin Peay @ Vanderbilt (11.10.07)
  • Georgia Tech @ Tennessee St. (11.11.07)
  • Murray St. @ Mississippi St. (12.01.07)
  • Samford @ Florida St. (12.02.07)
  • Tennessee Tech @ Oregon St.  (12.16.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  Absolutely no chance. 

Neat-o Stat.  Reigning OVC Player of the Year Drake Reed was the first sophomore to win the honor since Popeye Jones did so back in 1990 at Murray St.   It’s unclear whether Reed is related to Jones (see below). 

Popeye Jones family 2

64/65-Team Era.  The OVC has gone 3-24 (.111) over the era.  As mentioned above, the glory days were the late 80s, when the OVC won a first round NCAA game each year from 1987-89.  The league hasn’t won a game since, although it has had a couple of very close calls (#2 Duke 81, #15 Murray St. 78 – 1997; #1 Michigan St. 75, #16 Murray St. 71 (OT) – 1990).   

Final Thought.   The OVC is definitely a top-heavy league this year.  There are three or four teams that can realistically win the NCAA bid, while the others are fairly noncompetitive.  Even with the lack of a balanced league, there is likely only one team with the experience and talent for us to consider it as possible first round upset material – Austin Peay.  But as we saw last year, even with the best team in the OVC, there’s no certainty that the Governors can win the conference tournament in its own back yard (47 miles from Clarksville, TN, to this year’s site again, Nashville, TN).   

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