When Will NJIT Win a Game?

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2008

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent of the MAAC and NEC Conferences.

njit-logo

NEWARK, NJ – Sunday afternoon brought a venture to this city to catch NJIT and Wagner in a non-conference meeting. The NJIT campus is located downtown walking distance from Rutgers-Newark and UMDNJ (University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey). Outside the NJIT Fleisher Center is an inscription ‘The edge is knowledge’.

NJIT entered the game 0-11 and in the midst of a 44-game losing streak. While the basketball team is struggling to find their way in Division I, the inscription bears a reminder to visitors, this is one of the nation’s elite technological and research institutions. A virtual ’heavyweight’ in academia.  The modest sized crowd is into the contest and cheering the homestanding Highlanders. Winless, yet the effort is there. Defensively they get after it. Every time a run seems to be building or going their way the Highlanders miss a shot or lose the ball. Coach Jim Engles roams the sideline, intense and enthusiastic.

At the half they trail 34-22. The second half starts well for NJIT. They chip away at the lead and gradually draw even with 10 minutes to play. A free throw puts NJIT up one with just under nine minutes left. Wagner answers with two unanswered baskets and never looks back. With a minute to go the Wagner lead is double digits. There is a loose ball and an NJIT player dives across the floor in pursuit. In defeat, nothing is left in reserve. Wagner eventually closes out the 68-58 victory.  “Only a coach can understand the marvelous job Jim (Engles) is doing,” praised Wagner mentor Mike Deane. “They will win a few games this year. Guaranteed. I’m just glad they didn’t get a win against us.”

In the hallway Engles reviews the stat sheet that shows NJIT had four players in double figures led by Jheryl Wilson’s 16 points. Another thing crosses his mind. “We gave up rebounds off their (Wagner) missed free throws a few times down the stretch,” Engles notes. “Those are extra possessions we are giving them.” Engles notes the losing is tough but day to day the players come to the gym, resilient and eager to learn and get better. “Hey, teams are challenging us,” Engles adds. “They are getting after us and that’s the way I want it.” Upbeat despite the loss, Engles and his team will be back to work to prepare for Lehigh on New Year’s Eve. “”This is the first step,” Engles adds, “in a long process.” The loss to Wagner put the Highlanders at 0-12. The won-lost record unfairly does not measure heart and commitment.

(ed. note – here is NJIT’s remaining schedule and accompanying percentage chance of winning each game, according to kenpom.com. That Maryland-Eastern Shore game can’t come soon enough…)

kenpom.com

table credit: kenpom.com

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2008-09 Quarterly Report – Q1

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2008

Believe it or not, we’re already one-quarter of the way through the regular season.  Most teams have played seven or eight of their allotted 28 regular season games, and as we head into the next two weeks of semester finals, things will quiet down a bit.  Thus, now is a good time to stop, take a look back at the first month of the season, and reflect as to some of the things we think we’ve learned through the “getting to know us” portion of the schedule.  Here’s your 2008-09 First Quarter Report.  (all stats and records through Sun. Dec. 7th)

Top Storyline. Nothing could be finer than to be from Carolina.  Right now, the top storyline is whether anyone can stop the North Carolina Tarheels before April 6th in Detroit.  There’s no need to go over all the impressive stats in this space again (check here instead), but suffice it to say that UNC has looked absolutely dominant through its eight games, and the reigning NPOY has only played in half of them.  It’s an absolute lock that UNC will hit ACC play undefeated and it’s very difficult to envision a scenario where the Heels drop more than a couple in league play by March Madness.  The storyline from here on out will be if any other team(s) develop to the point where they can realistically challenge UNC.

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photo credit: Men’s Health

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ATB: Quiet Before the Storm

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008

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News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93.  He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.  Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history.  May he rest in peace.

pete-newellPhoto Credit:  LA Times

Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was.  Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win   Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else.  SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough.  In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson.  People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.

Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land.  Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games.  No longer.  Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%).  Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort.  So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.

Preseason NIT Action.

  • Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous.  33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting.  The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back.  They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
  • Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far.  Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls.  MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
  • BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts.  BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
  • St. John’s 86, Cornell 75.  The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75.  Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
  • Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win.  Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
  • Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53.  Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
  • Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62.  Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight.  The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced.  UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.

Big East Tuneups.

  • Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year?  Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
  • Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
  • Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville.  Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
  • Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season.  Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
  • Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game.  UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away.  AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack.  Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.

Other Games of Interest.

  • Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts.  He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
  • Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont.  He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts.  AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
  • Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row.  Another 26% FG shooting night.  Can we send them back to D2 now?

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST):

  • 24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops – see separate post here for schedule and times.
  • Indiana v. IUPUI (BTN) – 6:30pm
  • Bucknell v. Boston U. – 7pm
  • Tennessee (-25) v. UT-Martin (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Ole Miss (-10) v. South Alabama – 8pm
  • Texas (-22) v. Tulane (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • USC (-16) v. New Mexico St. – 9pm
  • Gonzaga (-27.5) v. Idaho (FSN) – 9pm
  • San Diego (-5.5) v. Nevada (ESPN FC & 360) – 10pm
  • Arizona St. (-3) @ San Diego St. (CBS CS) – 11pm
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Unbeaten/Winless Watch (12.25.07)

Posted by rtmsf on December 26th, 2007

We really wanted to do this two weeks ago, but as you know, life got in the way.  So we’ll make do with what’s left.

As of Xmas Day, out of a total 341 D1 teams, there were a total of nine unbeaten teams and only four winless teams remaining (see table below).   Four of the nine unbeatens are unsurprising – #1 UNC, #2 Memphis, #4 Kansas, and #6 Wazzu were all preseason top ten teams.  Pittsburgh wasn’t ranked in the preseason, but they’re always pretty  good, so we’re not shocked by their inclusion (esp. once Levance Fields got himself unTazed).  That leaves us with three shockers from the SEC/ACC and one ridiculous Southland Conference inclusion (although… we had ‘em).

Unbeatens & Winless 12.25.07 v.5

From the SEC there are two unbeatens.  Florida?  Nope.  Kentucky?  Nope.  Tennessee?  Nope.  Mississippi State?  Nope.  Those four teams have about a baker’s dozen number of losses between them.  But if you had Ole Miss and Vandy at 22-0 heading into the last week of 2007, proceed directly to the Bellagio sports book.  Do not pass go.   Do not collect $200.  Ok, so Ole Miss’s 11-0 start smells an awful lot like the annual Clemson torridness (in a somewhat ironic twist, Ole Miss’s best win was at Clemson last week – 85-82), but we have to tip the hat to Andy Kennedy’s squad for beating all comers so far, and setting themselves up for a possible run at the SEC West title and an NCAA bid.  (memo to University of Cincinnati:  how’s bailing on Kennedy working out for ya?  Oh right, losses to Illinois St., Bowling Green and Belmont.  Good luck with that.)  As for Vandy, they’ve probably got a little more upside than Ole Miss due to the addition of a freshman stud who incomprehensibly gets almost no hype, AJ Ogilvy (19/7).  With senior guard Shan Foster, this inside-outside tandem plus Vandy’s home court nearly assures the ‘Dores of an NCAA berth, and given the relative state of the rest of the SEC this year, possible SEC title.

The last two unbeatens are probably the most surprising of all.  Miami (FL) was 12-20 last season, and the Hurricanes have already matched that win total this year.  A very soft schedule has made this record possible, but two solid road wins (@ Providence and @ Miss. St.) show that this team will be worth watching in the ACC race this year.   The final unbeaten, Sam Houston St., has an early win over Bob Knight and Texas Tech on their resume, but little else.  Still, it’s a great early-season story, and we’ll be rooting for them to keep it up through their west coast trip to SDSU and Loyola Marymount this coming weekend.

As for the four winless teams, we can’t say there are any real surprises.  Furman and Grambling will win soon enough, but we’re not sure about the disasters otherwise known as Ball St. and NJIT.   NJIT, probably the worst offensive team in the nation, has only broken sixty points once this year; and has been under fifty points four other times.  Ball St. is still feeling the aftershocks of the Ronny Thompson fiasco, and there’s no telling when they’ll come out of that tailspin.  Last year’s winless streak leader, Iona, didn’t get their first victory until Feb. 3 (0-22), and we think NJIT has a chance to match or exceed that this year.

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