Postseason-Bound, Toledo’s Basketball Future is Bright

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 24th, 2014

A few things become immediately noticeable upon stepping foot in Toledo’s recently-renovated Savage Arena. For one, it’s pretty darn nice — complete with a new Jumbotron, luxury suites and a glass-enclosed dinner lounge, the school’s $30 million investment in 2008 has made the venue an enjoyable place to catch a basketball game. And then there are the banners. Plenty hang from the rafters, sure, but it takes some scanning — past the innumerable NIT and MAC West Division title flags — before your eyes arrive at the centerpiece, just to the right of the Stars and Stripes: ‘NCAA Tournament 1979-80,’ it reads. The fact that it’s been 34 years since Toledo last reached the Big Dance seems genuinely surprising, especially when you consider the current state of the program. Loaded with talent and backed by an energized fan base, the Rockets now look the part of an established MAC powerhouse, poised to compete for league championships and postseason appearances in the coming years. As to whether that multi-decade NCAA Tournament drought comes to an end in 2013-14? That depends on just how far their potent offense can take them.

Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk has turned things around in Toledo. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)

Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk has turned things around in Toledo. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)

Sunday night’s 85-74 victory over Ball State might have perfectly embodied both Toledo’s greatest strengths and most glaring weaknesses so far this season. On the one hand, the Rockets had no problem putting the ball in the basket, scoring 1.27 points per possession and shooting 56 percent from the field. On the other, Tod Kowalczyk’s club allowed one of the worst offensive teams in the MAC its most efficient game yet in conference play. “We didn’t have much energy on defense,” big man Nathan Boothe noted about his team’s effort for a chunk of the contest. But as it’s done so many times this year — it will set the school’s single-season record for wins if it beats Northern Illinois on Wednesday — Toledo’s score-at-will offense simply overpowered its deficiencies on the other end of the court, enabling it to run past the Cardinals in the final three minutes. That firepower is the prevailing reason the Rockets are now 23-4 and currently tied with Western Michigan atop the MAC West standings.

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Big East M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 22nd, 2014


  1. So Villanova had a rough night on Monday… The Wildcats hosted Creighton in a battle for the top of the Big East standings and were immediately blitzed by a record shooting performance from the Bluejays. Creighton knocked down nine straight threes to open the game, led by sharpshooter Ethan Wragge, who finished the game a blistering 9-of-14 from deep himself. Villanova has had a stellar season thus far and it would be easy to chalk up the loss as “one of those nights,” but Jay Wright isn’t having any of that: “I could say that but I don’t believe it. I do know we can learn from what happened, but we had our guys’ attention before. It hurts. The night you go through it hurts, but then you come back from it. The season is a journey.”
  2. St. John’s has struggled immensely this season, and Rumble in the Garden writer Norman aka Pico took a long look at the team’s defensive failings, as well as Steve Lavin’s inability to find consistent, productive rotations as the key contributors to the poor start. Last season, the Red Storm’s defense surrendered 0.98 points per possession through the Big East regular season and the NIT. This year, that number is all the way up to 1.11 PPP in Big East play, greatly outpacing St. John’s o.99 mark on offense. Norman argues that this ineffectiveness has led to a lot of lineup shuffling, and now the team is halfway through the season still needing to find an identity. The Johnnies are running out of time to find something that works, with three games scheduled over the next six days including a January 28 game with Creighton.
  3. Marquette has struggled to score all season, but in Monday’s win over Georgetown the Golden Eagles found two unexpected weapons in freshman guard John Dawson and sophomore forward Steve Taylor Jr on their bench. The two players, who came into the game averaging just over a combined 20 minutes per game, played 54 productive minutes in the overtime victory. Dawson scored 12 points and dished out four assists, while Taylor went for 14 points and eight rebounds. The two little-used players were the second and third leading scorers for a squad that desperately needed a boost in that department. Given the team’s necessity and their good outings, it will be interesting to see how Buzz Williams handles their playing time going forward.
  4. Georgetown has been in a similar, if not worse, scoring drought of late. Outside of star Hoya guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks, there are few other scoring threats on the roster, and that fact sunk John Thompson III’s squad against the Golden Eagles Monday. CSN Washington‘s Ben Standick breaks down the gory details: “The starting frontcourt of Mikael Hopkins, Nate Lubick and Reggie Cameron shot 3-of-17 from the field. Georgetown’s bench was outscored 34-8.” The Hoyas, now at 3-4 in conference play, are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years if things don’t improve on the offensive end.
  5. We touched on Ethan Wragge‘s prolific shooting night above, and now Creighton is turning his unconscious outing into a marketable moment. Playing off of Wragge’s scruffy look and epic beard, the school is hosting “Lumberjack Night” for the February 7 showdown with DePaul. Creighton wants its fans to don flannel shirts to commemorate the occasion, and wearing Wragge-style-beards is encouraged. #Wraggebombs for everyone!
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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #23 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2013


Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#23 – Where David vs. Goliath Still Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.


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Four Takeaways From Iowa’s Run to the NIT Championship Game

Posted by jnowak on April 5th, 2013

Iowa lost the NIT championship game to Baylor by 20 points last night, but Fran McCaffery had to be pleased with the way his team played in the two weeks following the disappointment of not making the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. Here are four takeaways from the Hawkeyes’ second-place finish in the nation’s second most prestigious postseason tournament.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Tournament-Maryland vs Iowa

Iowa Should Be Able To Build On This Season’s Run Next Year

  • Roy Devyn Marble looks like an All-Big Ten player. With the exception of the championship game on Thursday (he didn’t score his first points of the second half until about the nine-minute mark), Marble looked like a player who is poised for a real breakout year in 2013-14. After averaging 15.2 PPG and 3.0 APG through the regular season, he averaged 24.3 PPG through his first four NIT contests. In those same games, he had 4.8 APG and RPG, while tallying at least one steal in two of them. Does that qualify the championship — six points, four assists, two steals, and two rebounds — as an anomaly? It’s hard to say exactly, but his steadiness over those first four games (and against strong competition, too) was unmatched during the regular season. Entering the NIT, Marble had dropped seven 20-plus point games, and never more than two in a row. If he can perform like that in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, there will be room for him on next year’s All-Big Ten team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 4th, 2013


  1. The very best in high school basketball came together for the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago last night. Sure the West beat the East 110-99 but fans were watching to see how their favorite school’s recruits did individually. Here’s the sad part — out of the 26 players on the floor, only one was committed to a Big 12 school. Kansas commitment Wayne Selden Jr. had himself an efficient night of basketball: 13 points on 5-of-7 from the floor (2-of-4 from three), five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 18 minutes. The nation’s top uncommitted recruit, Andrew Wiggins, is also considering the Jayhawks along with Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina. Wiggins led the East team with 19 points in the loss.
  2. Speaking of which, Kansas freshman guard Anrio “Rio” Adams announced his plans to transfer closer to his home in Seattle. In a statement released by the university, Adams said, “I feel like going home and playing closer is better for me and my family. This was definitely a family decision and it was a decision I wanted to do that would be best for my situation.” In a now-deleted tweet from his account, Adams announced his list of potential landing spots as Oregon, Washington, Arizona and UCLA. We don’t know how much this news affects KU’s recruitment of Wiggins seeing how they already a scholarship open but it’s an interesting development nonetheless.
  3. Crimson and Cream Machine scored an exclusive interview with Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger a few days ago. Kruger, the only coach to take five schools to the NCAA Tournament, offers his overall impression of his second season in Norman as well as a mini-preview of what is to come next year. (An aside: big ups to OU Athletic Department and Lon Kruger for making time for an interview with a fine blog like C&CM. We bloggers strive for legitimacy and little things like this can go a long way.)
  4. Anyone else suffering from college hoops withdrawal? Well grab yourself a happy helping of Baylor-Iowa coming up tonight for the NIT championship. As much as people knock on Scott Drew’s coaching abilities, the fact is he’s pretty darn good in postseason tournament formats: three NCAA tournament bids, two of them Elite Eights, and now two appearances in the NIT title game). There’s also some history at stake too. The NIT has been around one year longer than the NCAA Tournament and a Baylor win would mean the first ever NIT title for a Big 12 school. I could try to give you another selling point to watch the game except that my skull would spontaneously combust if I did.
  5. What’s in a contract anyway? Thanks to, we now know all about Tubby Smith’s deal with Texas Tech. First off, the contract will go for six years with a starting salary at $1.67 million in 2013-14. The deal will increase by $100,000 every after that. Now we’ll do a quick run through the incentives. If Tubby takes a team to the NCAA Tournament, he’ll earn $50,000 and there are more incentives for going deeper in the tournament. For example, If Tubby is able to make a Final Four on his last year of the deal (2018-19), Smith would make somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.47 million. And, if he’s able to keep the team GPA at the 3.0 level, you can add an extra $20,000 for a grand total of $2.49 million in 2019. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands to be doing this sort of thing.
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The ACC in the NIT: Previewing Maryland vs. Iowa

Posted by KCarpenter on April 2nd, 2013

Raise your hand if you had Maryland as the last ACC team still playing basketball in April. Sure, the Terrapins are only playing in the NIT, but for Mark Turgeon’s crew that means something. In Maryland’s most recent win against Alabama, the team showed flashes of the talent that many had predicted for it headed into the season. Specifically, Alex Len, who has disappeared for long stretches during the season, dominated the Crimson Tide on his way to a 15-point, 13-rebound and five-block performance to lead his team to a one-point win. The inconsistent Maryland that muddled its way through the conference schedule seems to have mostly disappeared. It’s a good thing too, because Iowa, the Terps’ next foe tonight in Madison Square Garden, is a bit of a ringer.

Alex Len, Maryland

Alex Len is Playing Good Basketball Again (AP Photo)

According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, the Hawkeyes currently rate as the 21st best team in the country, largely on the basis of its 19th-ranked defense (Maryland ranks 48th and 33rd, respectively). By these measures, Iowa is head and shoulders above its NIT fellows, and easily the best team to not make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Like Maryland, Iowa sometimes struggles to shoot the ball consistently, but it plays such tough defense and rebounds so tenaciously that poor shooting is unlikely to sink the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately for the Terps, one of their greatest strengths is vulnerable to Iowa.

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Big East M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 28th, 2013


  1. Jim Boeheim retirement rumor-mongering has become something of a cottage industry in recent seasons, so it’s always relieving when the man himself can add some clarity to the things that bounce around the world of message boards and e-mail chains. In his Sweet Sixteen presser yesterday, Boeheim took the time to end speculation as to whether he will coach the team in the 2013-14 season: “There is no process. There is no process. I’m coachin’ next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I’m not going to kid around about it anymore, I’m coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it.” That is, unless he isn’t: “About September, if I don’t want to coach, I won’t coach.” That last little bit seems to open the door for a Jim Calhoun/Kevin Ollie situation, although Mike Hopkins has been the established head coach in waiting at Syracuse for years, so that type of manipulation seems unnecessary.
  2. Match-ups between elite programs like Syracuse and Indiana are always great fun for a variety of reasons. Because these types of schools dip into the same small pool of blue-chip recruits, a lot of these players have long relationships, and these back stories can only help build intrigue for the games. IU”s Victor Oladipo spent a lot of time on Wednesday talking about his relationships with Syracuse’s DMV-area forwards Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair. Oladipo is very close with the entire Grant family, and descibed Jerami as a “little brother” while calling Fair a “good player” who is “a real cool dude to chill with.”  Much of the pregame speculation on the Syracuse end of things has been about whom Oladipo will be tasked with guarding. That assignment may very well be Fair, who has been SU’s most consistent scorer all season.
  3. The Marquette-Miami game has its own built-in storyline heading into tonight’s Sweet Sixteen bout. Hurricane assistant Eric Konkol coached guard Trent Lockett, who has come on as a big factor in the backcourt for the Golden Eagles, at Hopkins High School. Both took an unconventional road to this NCAA Tournament match-up. Konkol found himself in the high school ranks after coaching under Jim Larranaga at George Mason while his wife worked on a degree at the University of Minnesota. He rejoined Larranaga in 2010, moving with him to Miami. Lockett spent his first three years at Arizona State, where he averaged over 13 points per game as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Marquette. Lockett had a big game in the Round of 32 against Butler, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbing six rebounds.
  4. Dueling articles are always fun. Think Progress‘ Travis Waldron penned a piece called “The University of Louisville is Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, where his basic thesis is that because Louisville is the most profitable college basketball program but their basketball alumni don’t all matriculate to the NBA and make millions of dollars within a year or two, they’re evil… or something. I’m not a fan of using someone’s alma mater and inherent biases to try to invalidate their arguments, but when Waldron brought up his Kentucky background a lot of things were cleared up. SB Nation‘s Louisville blog Card Chronicle writer Mike Rutherford responded with his own post: “The University of Louisville is Not Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball“, and I think he sums things up pretty well in response to Waldron – “You forgot the #BBN hashtag as your signature.”
  5. Alas, this year’s sprint towards NIT glory was not to be for the Providence Friars, who fell in the quarterfinals to Baylor in Waco last night.  The Friars had big performances from the usual suspects – Bryce Cotton led the team with 23 points while Vince Council and Kadeem Batts were close behind with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Kris Dunn was the only other Friar to score, however, and Baylor took advantage of Providence’s limited depth to cruise to a 79-68 victory. With Providence now out of the NIT, the three remaining Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament are the conference’s last representatives in postseason play this season.
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The ACC in the NIT: Virginia and Maryland Poised to Square Off

Posted by KCarpenter on March 27th, 2013

Sure it’s not as prestigious as the Big Dance, but one ACC team has already punched it’s ticket to a “final four” even if it isn’t the Final Four. Maryland narrowly defeated Alabama to claim the first berth in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden last night. Tonight Virginia will square off against Iowa for the privilege of challenging the Terps for a spot in the NIT Final. Of course,  for Virginia to get there, the Cavaliers must defeat Iowa, a potentially very challenging task.

It's Bedlam in College Park as the Terps Make the NIT Final Four (Yahoo Sports)

It’s Bedlam in College Park as the Terps Make the NIT Final Four — Or Not (Yahoo Sports). 

By Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, Iowa is the best team in the country that wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, with Virginia a close second. The two teams are quite similar: both feature stout defenses and unbalanced offenses that primarily feature two stars.  While the Wahoos thrive on the sweet shooting of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, the Hawkeyes get most of their offensive mileage out of the uncanny abilities of Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White to get to the free throw line. Together, the pair has combined for 320 made free throws this season. White, in particular, has a free throw rate of 86.6%, averaging nearly seven free throw attempts per game in less than 30 MPG. In 40 minutes, that projects to drawing 6.6 fouls per game. This doesn’t seem like a big deal for a team like Virginia, which is generally very good at avoiding fouls, but it could be a problem in terms of its front line depth. Freshmen Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte have been excellent complementary pieces for the Cavaliers, but both still foul too much.  Averaging 4.1 and 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively, the two seem likely candidates for disqualification against the savvy play of White and Marble.

Still, the Cavaliers have two things that the Hawkeyes don’t: notably, home court advantage and Harris. Harris has had only a mild showing in the NIT so far, which, unfortunately for Iowa, may portend a big game due for the versatile guard. Iowa is likely the better team and the Hawkeyes probably expect to dominate the boards against Virginia, but between the offensive wizardry of Harris and the significant edge of playing in Charlottesville, Virginia has a very good chance to get to the NIT semifinals.

Then, if the Cavaliers can get to Madison Square Garden, they can look forward to a tilt with the same Terrapins whom they swept in conference play. A strong showing in the NIT doesn’t do much for conference pride, but it sure does a lot more than losing early in the NIT.

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Big East M5: 03.26.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 26th, 2013


  1. Not only does Louisville own the number one overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the Midwest region favorites are also the most profitable college basketball program in all the land. The value of the KFCYum! Center and an abundance of donations to the program have led to the landslide top ranking in this year’s Forbes list of the most valuable basketball programs in the country. Syracuse was the only other Big East squad in the top 20 of Forbes’ list, coming in at ninth.
  2. During Syracuse’s round of 32 game against California on Saturday night, Michael Carter-Williams‘ family’s house in Hamilton, Massachusetts was destroyed by a fire, which is believed to have started in the chimney. The family was inside the house watching his game when the fire started, but luckily everyone made it out of the house without injury. Carter-Williams’ aunt told the Boston Globe that the point guard is a bit “shaken up because he can’t do anything to help,” but that he remains focused on the NCAA Tournament, and won’t return home until after the East Regional games in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
  3. Saturday’s Third Round game between Marquette and Butler could very well mark the beginning of a budding rivalry in the new Big East conference. Both schools play similar, bruising styles of basketball and thrive in close-game situations, this one won by Buzz Williams’ squad. Both are private urban universities in midwestern cities with proud recent basketball histories and top flight young coaches. Where some of the programs that joined the Big East in the mid-2000s expansion failed to live up to their basketball promise, Marquette has played at a consistently high level, and the new conference led by the Catholic Seven will look to Butler to make an immediate impact in a similar fashion.
  4. While Pitt fans seem a bit split on Jamie Dixon, especially after another early NCAA flame-out, Dixon is very happy to be sticking around the ‘Steel City‘.  The university has locked the coach up for the next 10 years, ending much speculation that Dixon would take the vacant job at USC.  The signing gives Pitt security heading into a new conference, if nothing else, and gives the Dixon family a similar sense of stability: “My family’s excited. Our administration felt it needed to be done, so we’re excited and happy.”
  5. There is, of course, a fourth Big East program still dancing… or at least shuffling its feet off away from the spotlight. Providence knocked off notorious Kentucky-killers Robert Morris 77-68 in the second round of the NIT at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, setting up an upcoming quarterfinal with Baylor. In the team’s final hurrah at home, coach Ed Cooley made sure to deliver a message to the Friars faithful to try to kick-start some momentum heading into 2013-14: “We want to see this place full next season as we begin our quest for a national championship.”  While an NCAA title might be a gaudy task for next season, an NIT crown should be attainable this year, and it would be a nice feather in the cap for a program that was better than many probably thought this season.
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Potential SEC Matchups to Watch: the NIT’s Best Games

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 19th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

After a down year for conference basketball, SEC fans might be paying more attention to the NIT than the Big Dance this week. That’s because two of its most traditionally successful teams, Kentucky and Tennessee, are stuck playing in March’s second-biggest tournament. They’ll be joined by Alabama, another high-profile program that ended up on the wrong side of the bubble. While mid-major darlings like Middle Tennessee State, Saint Mary’s, Boise State, and La Salle earned at-large invitations, the SEC’s weak profile helped separate these former powerhouses from the NCAA Tournament.

uk ut 13

Kentucky and Tennessee Were On the Outside Looking In

Instead of kicking off the second-season on Thursday and Friday’s glorious start to March Madness, half of the SEC’s postseason teams will get to work on Tuesday and Wednesday in the opening round of the NIT. However, just because they aren’t playing on the big stage doesn’t mean that all of the must-watch games in the conference are confined to Florida, Ole Miss, and Missouri. A deep NIT field means that there are plenty of high-level match-ups waiting to fill in the gaps between NCAA Tourney play. Three different SEC teams will look to redeem their seasons with a deep run in the country’s second-most-prestigious basketball tournament. Here are the potential games to keep an eye out for once NIT play begins, assuming that the basketball gods pair up these teams in the best possible manner:

  1. Kentucky vs. Providence (NIT Second Round): Two teams that were forsaken by Rick Pitino in the past three decades will try to build their case for 2014 in a second round match-up built for basketball purists. Providence will be playing its last games in the Vincent Council era, but a young core led by Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts has Ed Cooley’s Friars trending upward. Of course, no team may have more unrealized potential in the NCAA right now than Kentucky. The Wildcats missed out on the NCAA Tournament thanks to a late-season fade brought on by Nerlens Noel’s season ending knee injury. If Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin decide to jump to the NBA this summer, this could be their last chance to make an impact as Blue Bloods. Despite playing in the NIT, each program has a ton to prove in this potential second round game. Read the rest of this entry »
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