Can Drexel Win the CAA Without Damion Lee?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 6th, 2013

After losing senior guard Chris Fouch for almost the entire season and finishing in the bottom half of its league last year, Drexel’s 2013-14 campaign seemed to be one filled with resurgent optimism, especially after a promising month of November. The Dragons nearly beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion on college basketball’s opening night before winning three straight contests, including victories over Elon and Rutgers, to advance to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals in Madison Square Garden. There, Bruiser Flint’s squad jumped out to an early 27-8 lead on fourth-ranked Arizona, proving to a national audience — and perhaps itself — that it could play with anyone. But in the second half, CAA Player of the Year candidate Damion Lee went down with a torn ACL, and the outlook for Drexel this season changed in an instant. A team predicted to compete for the league title was suddenly and decidedly shorthanded.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Season Tip-Off-Drexel vs Arizona

Does Damion Lee’s Injury Change the Outlook for the Dragons?

With Lee, Frantz Massenat and Fouch, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility because of his ankle injury, the Dragons were set to have arguably the best backcourt in the conference. And while they still might, what with Massenat’s preseason all-conference stature and Fouch’s elite shooting ability, losing a player as dynamic as Lee undoubtedly lowers the team’s ceiling going forward. The question will be to what extent. At 6’6″, Lee led the team in scoring last season with 17.1 points per game, consistently displaying his ability to pull up from anywhere on the court and attack the rim when his team needed it. He was also an effective rebounder for his position, compiling four 20+ point, 10+ rebound performances over his career up to this point. With all three guards back and healthy this year, merely keying on Lee or attempting to shut down Fouch or Massenat was simply not a viable strategy for opponents; if one or even two guys had bad night, another of the backcourt stars was there to carry the load. Perhaps most importantly, the three of them on the court together meant that no one had to play outside of their comfort zones, unlike last season when Massenat struggled to be both point guard and relied-upon scorer each night.

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Reviewing the Performance of ACC Teams in Feast Week: Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2013

Today we will review the final six early season tournaments involving ACC teams. To see the recap we did covering the first seven such events, click here. The ACC completed a successful Feast Week with two more championships giving the conference a total of five titles in 13 tournaments. This performance should give the ACC some momentum going into this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. With another good week, perhaps the conference will overcome the negative impact from some of those bad early non-conference losses.

Syracuse Wins EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time. (Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse Wins the EA Maui Invitational for the Third Time.
(Photo: mauiinvitational.com)

Syracuse became the second ACC newcomer to win an early-season tournament by beating #18 Baylor 74-67 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Wednesday night. That followed wins over Minnesota, 75-67, and California, 92-81. Senior C.J. Fair was named the tournament MVP while averaging 18 points for the three games and tallying 24 in the finals. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who scored 28 in the semifinals over Cal, and had an outstanding 18 to two assist-to-turnover ratio for the tournament. With the Orange’s third Maui championship along with Pittsburgh’s title in the Progressive Legends Classic, the new ACC schools are serving notice that they are ready to compete at the top of their new conference.

Duke did not fare as well in the other marquee Feast Week event, the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York’s Madison Square Garden. After beating Alabama 74-64 in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Blue Devils fell to #4 Arizona, 72-66, in Friday’s championship game. Coming into the week Duke’s defense had been struggling mightily and was the focus for improvement by Mike Kzyzewski. The Devils did look much better on that end of the court against good competition, but another glaring issue has not been resolved. Duke is still searching for production from its primary big man position – Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined for only two points in a total of 69 minutes over the two games.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona in the NIT Season Tip-Off

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So Far: Arizona has shown up on the nation’s radar once so far this season, and the Wildcats took advantage of the opportunity. Jumping out to a 24-11 lead, the Wildcats were in firm control of the proceedings at San Diego State. Junior guard Nick Johnson led the Cats with 23 points, and his four free throws in the last seven seconds put the 69-60 victory on ice. Outside of that night in Southern California, they have had a quiet campaign clean of any losses.

Nick Johnson And The Wildcats Have A Tantalizing Potential Matchup With Duke On Friday

Nick Johnson And The Wildcats Have A Tantalizing Potential Matchup With Duke On Friday

First Round Preview: The NIT Season Tip-Off actually began in Tucson last week, with Arizona taking care of Fairleigh Dickinson and Rhode Island in the initial two rounds of this tournament. This tournament actually respects the results of its on-campus competitions (unlike every other early season event), and for that reason, the Wildcats get Drexel this afternoon. The Dragons have opened the season at a 3-1 clip, playing all four games away from home. They started the year with a five-point loss at UCLA, proving they can hold their own against Pac-12 competition. Drexel is led by senior guard Chris Fouch, who averages 17.3 PPG and is a threat to score every trip down the floor. The Cats are certainly the pick in this one, but don’t be surprised if this one is tight into the final minutes.

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Examining ACC Teams in Early Season Tournaments: Part III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 31st, 2013

As part of our preseason coverage on the ACC microsite, we will be looking at ACC teams competing in early season tournaments in a three-part series . Today we present Part III, which includes a look at the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Barclays Center Classic, the Corpus Christi Challenge and the Wooden Legacy. Here are links to the earlier two parts in the series – Part I and Part II.

In this final look at ACC teams in early season tournaments let’s examine just how important these events may be to the conference this year. The topic of “Greatest Conference Ever” has been a popular discussion point for the rebuilt ACC. There are many popular measures used to compare conferences, including National Championships, Final Four appearances, conference RPI, and non-conference winning percentage. But most folks judge conference strength by the number of NCAA Tourney bids that are earned. So is there a correlation between a conference’s performance in early season tournaments and the number of NCAA bids they get?

Duke Celebrates the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship  (Photo Credit: cbssports.com)

Duke Celebrates the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Championship (Photo Credit: cbssports.com)

Looking at the last three seasons provides an answer. Over that time, the two heavyweight conferences have been the old Big East and the Big Ten. From 2011 to 2013, the Big East received 28 NCAA bids out of a possible 47 (60%), and the Big Ten is right behind with 20 out of 35 (57%). The ACC has lagged way behind those two conferences with only 13 bids out of 36 (36%). Over those same three seasons, seven different Big Ten schools have combined to win nine early season tournament titles. The Big East has also claimed nine titles with eight different schools. Ironically, only new ACC member Syracuse won more than one of those. Meanwhile the ACC only claims five such titles, and even worse for overall conference strength, Duke has won three of those. By comparison, the Big Ten won five tournament titles last year alone. Furthermore, the record-setting 11 bid Big East in 2010-11 won six early season tournaments, which clearly established it as the dominant conference of that season well before conference play even started. If the ACC wants to get to that level again soon, they need to start by winning four or five of these events for a change.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 28th, 2011

  1. Over the weekend, three different Pac-12 teams played in eight-team tournaments. Arizona State, Utah and Washington State combined to go 1-8 in the Old Spice Classic, the Battle 4 Atlantis and the 76 Classic. Thankfully ASU was able to come across another BCS conference team that was worse than they were, handing Wake Forest a 28-point beatdown, but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for in the Thanksgiving tournaments this year. Other tournaments this week had mixed results, as Stanford advanced to the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off and gave Syracuse just about all it could handle before succumbing in the final minutes, and USC also split its two games in Las Vegas, losing to UNLV on Friday in the semifinal, but knocking off South Carolina in the consolation game.
  2. Arizona State did get some sort of good news this weekend, however, as an update on Jahii Carson finally came through. While Carson is still not eligible to play at this point, there is at least some movement here, as Doug Haller clarified in reporting that Carson was waiting on a late ACT score to post. When that score posts, if it is high enough, Carson can begin practicing (and playing) with the team immediately. If the score is not high enough, Carson will be ineligible this season. Stay tuned.
  3. Down the road a piece in Arizona, Sean Miller is promising big changes for the Wildcats. “The same five that started against San Diego State (Jordin Mayes, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kyryl Natyazhko) “will never start another game (together) at Arizona,” said Miller. Certainly Natyazhko is expected to be out of the starting lineup, although it remains to be seen whether Perry will move over to center or if freshman Angelo Chol will get a chance to start. But Mayes’ tenuous hold on the point guard position may be slipping as well, after he has struggled, handing out just three assists in his last five games. While freshman Josiah Turner has had his struggles adjusting to the new level of competition, his last few games have shown improvement and he may be ready to take over the reins. Likewise, the time could be now for Miller’s other freshman guard, Nick Johnson, who could slide in at the wing if Perry takes over in the middle. We’ll see what Miller has in mind on Tuesday night at New Mexico State.
  4. Oregon State had a fun weekend, wrapping up their week-long east coast road trip with a 20-point win over Towson in front of President Obama, among others. Devon Collier continued his strong start to his sophomore season by scoring 15 points, grabbing five offensive rebounds, handing out three assists and snagging two steals, while sophomore guard Roberto Nelson had by far his best game of the year, scoring 12 points and handing out four assists while playing under control. There were high hopes for Nelson this season, and maybe Saturday was the first sign of promising things to come.
  5. Finally, as if a 1-2 record in the Maui Invitational and a 1-4 start to the season weren’t enough for UCLA, sophomore forward Travis Wear cut his foot while snorkeling in Maui on Thursday and took five stitches. The Bruins’ second-leading scorer on this underwhelming season did not practice this weekend and will be reevaluated today to determine whether he will be able to play tonight when UCLA hosts Pepperdine at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Stanford vs. Syracuse

Posted by AMurawa on November 25th, 2011

When the last remaining undefeated Pac-12 team, Stanford, knocked off Oklahoma State on Wednesday night to advance to the championship game of the NIT Season-Tip Off to face the #5 team in the country, Syracuse, we had our Pac-12 game of the week all set up. Let’s preface the rest of this post by saying that we, like most of the rest of the college hoops public, have no expectation that Stanford will win this game. The Cardinal are a young team, still very much in the process of improving, and they’re facing a team that is arguably as talented as anyone in the country on a neutral-site court that will be anything but neutral. Can Stanford beat Syracuse? I point you to Exhibits A, B and C, to show that, sure, anything can happen, but the fact is Cardinal fans should temper their expectations. The goal is to win, but if they play the Orange close, that’s a success.

Josh Owens, Stanford

Josh Owens Will Play A Big Role As Stanford Tries To Attack Syracuse's 2-3 Zone

So, how does the Cardinal go about playing the Orange close? First and foremost, they need to be thankful today for their video coordinator and go to school on Jim Boeheim’s zone. Conventional wisdom says you attack the 2-3 zone by getting into the middle of it and playing inside out. Stanford has two good candidates to man the middle offensively against the zone: senior forward Josh Owens and sophomore forward Dwight Powell. Both are capable passers who can handle the ball a bit when needed, and each can turn around and hit the 15-foot jumper on the rare occasion when they are given space. Either player is also capable of flashing to the baseline when the ball is kicked back out to the guards and either hitting the baseline jumper or putting the ball on the floor and attacking the meat of that lengthy Syracuse zone. However, because of that length (the Orange feature seven-footer Fab Melo in the middle, with guys like 6’7” senior Kris Joseph, 6’9” freshman Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” sophomore Baye Moussa Keita, and 6’7” sophomore C.J. Fair elsewhere along the frontcourt), not only will the windows to get off jumpers disappear quickly, but any shots inside will be challenged.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Turkey Hangover Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 25th, 2011

  1. This basketball season just keeps getting better and better for the Pac-12. Thanksgiving brought three more losses in tournaments from the Bahamas to Anaheim, with Utah losing by 28 to Harvard in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona State dropping an ugly one to Fairfield in the Old Spice Classic, and Washington State capping off a brutal night with a 15-point loss in the 76 Classic to an Oklahoma team that was 14-18 last year. Not only is an 0-3 record definitely not something to be thankful for, but there wasn’t even a close game or a particularly good effort mixed in there; the tightest final margin was ASU’s 11-point loss in a relatively down-tempo game (approximately 62 possessions per team). The conference is now a combined 33-23 on the year, with a 5-9 record against teams from other BCS conferences.
  2. While Oregon fans are still holding out hope that somehow Jabari Brown winds up back in Eugene, rumors began circulating Thursday that Brown would end up at San Diego State next season. Steve Fisher has been rolling out the welcome mat for talented transfers who have struck out elsewhere, and while this would be a great get for an Aztec program that should be pretty strong next season, it looks like Duck fans can extinguish that last little flame of hope that Brown would return to Dana Altman’s program.
  3. The big game around the conference tonight is Stanford’s battle with Syracuse for the NIT Season Tip-Off title, a game we’ll discuss more later this morning. But USC kicks off an intriguing couple of days at the Las Vegas Invitational, with UNLV tonight and either North Carolina or South Carolina tomorrow night. The Trojans are just 2-3 on the season, but have lost their three games by a combined total of 11 points (including one double-overtime loss). Given that USC has shot 57.1% from the line in those three games (and just 62.9% for the season), you can see why head coach Kevin O’Neill says that free throws are killing them.
  4. Across town, UCLA is in much worse shape than the Trojans. While SC has at least been competitive every night out, and even managed to post a couple of wins, UCLA is still winless on the year against Division I competition. Worse yet, they haven’t been close – four losses by an average of almost 16 points a night. The closest they’ve come is an 11-point loss to Loyola Marymount. This UCLA roster is certainly not awash in hyper-talented individuals, but as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times points out, the lack of commitment from several important members of the team is the bigger problem.
  5. Well, there’s always football. Nevermind that there is still a scenario whereby the winner of the Pac-12 South division isn’t eligible for a bowl game – it’s still better off than the basketball side of things. And given my own struggles in simply picking winners in Pac-12 games (I was 2-4 last week), I feel like I should be made an honorary member of the conference. Anyway, games kick off tonight on the football side and if everything breaks my way this weekend (including a highly improbable UCLA win over USC – I swear I’m not yet drunk as I write this), I can still catch Connor.
Game Connor (16-8) Drew (13-11)
Colorado @ Utah Utah Utah
California @ Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
Oregon State @ Oregon Oregon Oregon
Louisiana-Lafayette @ Arizona Arizona Washington
Washington State @ Washington Washington State Arizona
UCLA @ USC USC 28, UCLA 17 UCLA 21 USC 20
Notre Dame @ Stanford Stanford Notre Dame
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Pac-12 Morning Five: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 24th, 2011

  1. We have to start our Turkey Day post by getting right to the team that Pac-12 fans are currently thankful for, the last remaining undefeated team in the otherwise underachieving conference, Stanford. The Cardinal continued their strong start Wednesday night with a thorough 15-point handling of a solid Oklahoma State squad in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Senior forward Josh Owens continued his strong start with 21 points on 10-12 from the field, while below-the-radar point guard Aaron Bright had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, with three three-pointers mixed in there.  Further exciting Cardinal fans is the continued emergence of freshman guard Chasson Randle, who played his best game of his young career, scoring 17 points, including three threes of his own. However, while OSU was a step up in competition for Stanford, they should be prepared for another big jump in the talent level of their opponent, as they face RTC’s #5 team in the nation, Syracuse, on Friday afternoon in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
  2. Elsewhere in the conference Wednesday night, there were two more losses coming from among the four teams considered to make up the top tier of the Pac-12 prior to the season, as UCLA continued its disasterous season with its fourth loss on the young season and Arizona dropped its second straight. The Bruins lost by 16 to Michigan in Maui to mercifully end their trip with only a throw-away win over Division II Chaminade and some Hawaiian Airlines frequent flier miles to show for their effort. Meanwhile the Wildcats had their 22-game home winning streak broken by a game San Diego State squad. If there was a bright spot for Arizona, it was their freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson turning in double-digit performances. While Johnson has been solid from the get-go in Tucson, Turner has had his much publicized struggles. However, he is improving almost every time out and could have his breakout performance in the near future. On the down side for the Wildcats, however, Sean Miller spoke about the Sidiki Johnson suspension following the game and noted that Johnson did not return with the team to Tucson and remains in New York. Miller said that he and Johnson “have an agreement and if he meets this agreement, he could potentially be reinstated.” However, Miller then added, “he could also be dismissed.” Asked later is he was optimistic about Johnson meeting the agreement, he simply said, “no.”
  3. After California’s 39-point loss to Missouri on Tuesday night, Golden Bear fans had to be asking themselves: “Does this really look like a team capable of winning the conference championship?” Upon further research by Jeff Faraudo, no team from any incarnation of what is now the Pac-12 conference (i.e., the Pac-10, Pac-8, AAWU or PCC) dating back to 1950 has ever lost a non-conference game by as many as 39 points and gone on to win the conference championship. Maybe, given the possibly historic weakness of this year’s Pac-12, that streak can be broken. And maybe Tuesday night was simply a matter of a Cal team playing a poor game against a Missouri team that could do no wrong. Still, that was just another in a long line of black eyes for conference teams this season. After Wednesday night, the conference is 33-20 thus far on the season.
  4. There is not a whole lot of hope around the conference thus far, but one team that has inspired confidence among its followers, Oregon State, will get its own dash of hope this weekend. The Beavers and head coach Craig Robinson are in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend for a match-up with Towson on Saturday, and, of course, will be spending some time visiting with Robinson’s brother-in-law, some guy by the name of Barack Obama. The Beavers spent some time Wednesday with the First Family working at a food bank in the D.C. area, and will get a chance to visit the White House likely on Friday. And, while we’re on the topic of the Beavers, I would be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of Rob Dauster breaking down Jared Cunningham’s defensive work against Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins the other night. Great read and great analysis.
  5. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to make sure I keep this post relatively positive. I’m not going to link to Bruin fans absolutely losing it over their team’s oh-for-Division-I start. I wouldn’t possibly send you in search of those same Bruin fans ripping Ben Howland’s personnel decisions (like Norman Powell, Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane are going to turn this team back into a Pac-12 front-runner). And I certainly wouldn’t encourage anybody to take a look at SB Nation’s power rankings of the eight Division I programs in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in which UCLA is a distant sixth, behind (among others) a Pepperdine team that may finish last in the WCC, a Cal State Fullerton team that already lost to Houston Baptist this season, and a USC team that scored 36 points in losing to Cal Poly. Nah, you don’t want to read those. Go enjoy some turkey instead. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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Pac-12 Early Season Tournament Round-Up/Preview

Posted by AMurawa on November 22nd, 2011

It’s a great time to be a college hoops fan. This week in college basketball is arguably the fifth best week in the season, you know, right behind the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament and the week of the conference championships. We’ve got a chance to see teams, often for the first time, matched up with other schools from disparate corners of the country in tournament play, with the opportunities for teams to snag resume-boosting wins in rapid-fire fashion. Sure, we’ve already got a few tournaments wrapped up, and there are even a handful that come along later, but for the most part we’re right in the wheelhouse for the early season tournaments. So, we’ll take a quick look at all the Pac-12 teams and either preview or review the early season tournaments that each team is participating in.

  • Arizona – The Wildcats got things started right off the bat with an appearance in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. After dispatching of Valparaiso and Duquesne in the first week of the season, they rallied from behind in the semifinal against St. John’s to advance to the championship game, but folded down the stretch there, losing to Mississippi State.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils are in Orlando over the Thanksgiving weekend for the Old Spice Classic. They’ll get things started with Fairfield, expected to battle Iona for the MAAC title this year, before facing either Dayton or Wake Forest on Friday.  Texas Tech, Indiana State, Minnesota and DePaul make up the other side of what looks to be a relatively weak bracket, but given ASU’s poor start to the season, expecting them to do much damage in Orlando seems to be a pipe dream.
  • California – The Golden Bears are in the middle of the CBE Classic tournament in Kansas City this week, where they will play Missouri tonight in the championship game at 7 PM PST. They got to the final by demolishing Georgia last night 70-46, after handling George Washington and Austin Peay with ease in Berkeley last week.
Brandon Smith, California

Brandon Smith And The Cal Bears Take On Missouri In The Finals Of The CBE Classic Tonight

  • Colorado – A seventh place showing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off wasn’t what Buffalo head coach Tad Boyle had in mind, but that’s exactly what he got last weekend, after dropping the first two games of the week to Wichita State and Maryland in relatively close games before taking care of Western Michigan to avoid a winless trip to the tropics.
  • Oregon – The Ducks spend their tournament time in something called the Global Sports Hoops Showcase, December 20-22 in Eugene, with games against North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M and Stephen F. Austin doing absolutely nothing to help their at-large chances. Read the rest of this entry »
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