Big East M5: 10.29.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 29th, 2012

  1. Basketball Prospectus’ Dan Hanner unveiled his preseason basketball rankings using a brand new methodology: “Using 10 years of historical trends, I projected the performance of every D-I player, and then projected lineups for all 345 teams.”  The results are… interesting. Louisville remains the top ranked Big East school, though they’re a bit lower than most of the polls have them ranked, at #10.  Syracuse is right behind the Cardinals at #11. Pittsburgh ranks surprisingly high at #19, with Marquette, Notre Dame, and Georgetown falling in behind the Panthers at #21, #22, and #27, respectively. Rutgers ranks shockingly high at #43, and Cincinnati is listed all the way down at #52. The other Big East schools rank as follows: #58 Villanova, #69 Seton Hall, #71 South Florida, #76 St. John’s, #105 DePaul, #107 Connecticut, and #122 Providence.
  2. Seton Hall won its first exhibition, a game against D-II Wilmington University, 113-72.  Brandon Mobley led the way for the Pirates, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds.  Iowa transfer Kyle Smyth had a great game as well, going 4-8 from behind the arc en route to a 16-point, eight-assist, three-steal performance.  Fuquan Edwin sat out due to a violation of team rules, although he is not expected to miss much more time.
  3. Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant is expected to be one of the team’s breakout performers this year, and to do it, South Bend Tribune‘s Tom Noie believes that the guard could stand to “be more selfish.”  Grant is Notre Dame’s best playmaker, as evidenced by his team-leading five assists per game, but he can also score in multiple ways, and the Irish would like to see him get to the line more because of his acumen from the stripe (81.9% FT).  In the past, Grant hasn’t needed to be “the guy,” but he seems to be taking to his new leadership role: “I like having the ball in my hands being able to make plays for myself and for others,” he said. “The more I have the ball in my hands, the more I can be good.”
  4. DePaul received its second commitment for the class of 2013 in center Forrest Robinson. Robinson is currently enrolled at South Plains Junior College after spending his first year in college at North Texas, where he averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.  According to Rivals, the 6’10” Robinson had offers from Arkansas, Houston, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, USC, and Utah before choosing North Texas, and most recently chose DePaul over Bradley, Mississippi State, Saint Louis, and  Tennessee Tech.
  5. Syracuse isn’t just known for Jim Boeheim and the Orange basketball program; the school also has a pretty decent men’s lacrosse program. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams and forward C.J. Fair recently took to the lacrosse field to test their skills with the 11-time national champions and the results were mixed at best.  College Crosse has a full breakdown of the latest edition of the Post-Standard‘s ‘Mike & C.J. Show’ here.
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Analyzing the Big 12 Early Season Tournaments: Kansas State Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 9th, 2012

We’re just four days away from the official opening to the 2012-13 college basketball season as schools will be able to start officially practicing Friday night. Before then, though, we’re going to take a look at the various pre-conference tournaments that have become synonymous with the first month of college basketball. Nearly every Big 12 school is competing in one of those tournaments this season and we’ll take time each day this week to preview each bracket, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico to New York City. On Tuesday we took a look at Texas and Kansas. Today, it’s Kansas State and new head coach Bruce Weber. 

NIT Season-Tip Off

Dates: November 12-13, November 21, November 23
Location: Campus sites and Madison Square Garden
Major Teams: Michigan, Cleveland State, Pittsburgh, Lehigh, Robert Morris, Kansas State, North Texas, Virginia, Delaware

Bruce Weber is Firmly on the Hot Seat; How Will his Team Respond? (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

There’s no acclimation period for Bruce Weber at Kansas State. No rebuilding project, no waiting game, and, most importantly, no excuses for the Wildcats not to reach Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off this November. Weber, whose Illinois program slowly crumbled and led to his eventual dismissal, found a terrific gig in Manhattan and inherits an experienced roster capable of immediate results. That’s both a blessing and a burden. With an All-Big 12 wing in Rodney McGruder, strong guards, good depth and a defensive mentality already instilled by Frank Martin, it would be a colossal disappointment not to reach at least the semifinals. That’s a tough expectation, though, since Tony Mitchell and North Texas presumably await the Wildcats after an opening round game against Lamar. Kansas State would play this “Midwest Championship” at Bramlage Coliseum, but the Mean Green have the best player on the floor and seem primed for a big year after underachieving a bit with its young talent a year ago.

If Kansas State can slip by North Texas, it’s not necessarily an underdog compared to the rest of the PNIT field. At the top of the bracket, Michigan will play the role of the heavy favorite, thanks to that star-laden backcourt and return of Trey Burke. The top-seeded Wolverines could potentially face Pittsburgh in the semifinals, a program looking to rebound from an unprecedented down season on the shoulders of Tray Woodall and notable transfer Trey Zeigler. At the bottom of the bracket, second-seeded Virginia’s defense should be light years ahead of everybody else, but Tony Bennett’s team may struggle to find its offensive identity in November after losing Mike Scott. That could be one heck of a drag-it-out slugfest between KSU and Virginia in the semifinals at the Garden.

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Morning Five: 05.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2012

  1. In just the last three days, the Atlantic 10 has added Butler, the Mountain West has eviscerated the WAC with its additions of San Jose State and Utah State, and now Conference USA has finished it off as a major conference by grabbing Louisiana Tech to go along with the A-10’s Charlotte and the Sun Belt’s North Texas and FIU. There will be a quiz on all of these moves in mid-August. What does this mean from a college basketball perspective? Probably not much. Neither Charlotte nor Louisiana Tech have been relevant in a long time, and although North Texas made the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2010, winning in the Sun Belt is less challenging than it will be dealing with UTEP, Tulsa, Southern Miss, and UAB in a revamped Conference USA.
  2. A little under two years ago we touched on an ESPN story about a high school basketball player named Jerry Joseph who may have actually been a 22-year old named Guerdwich Montimere. It was a bizarre story at the time, and it got only weirder as ultimately Joseph/Montimere was convicted and sent to prison for sexual assault on an underage high school student and tampering with government records. In a recent column for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Wright Thompson attempted to connect all the dots of the saga in a meaningful way, putting a story behind the story of a wayward young man who no doubt got lost in the hype and fame of being the big man on campus. Great read.
  3. Illinois fans caught a glimpse into the mind of one of their incoming transfers when Sam McLaurin, a senior at Coastal Carolina who will take advantage of the one-year graduate school exception, announced (via Twitter, of course) “F— it im going to Illinois #illinination” on Thursday afternoon. McLaurin, a 6’10” power forward who averaged 10/8 last season, will provide some additional frontcourt depth in the wake of Meyers Leonard’s departure to the NBA. He later apologized for his choice of words (“Hey everyone sorry about my language last night. I was just extremely excited to be apart of #illinination”), but we doubt anyone from Waukegan to Carbondale will care much so long as he can bring his numbers every night next season.
  4. In one of the stupider bits of news to come out of our game this offseason (and there are plenty of candidates), Kentucky and Indiana have apparently decided to not renew its annual rivalry that dates back a half-century. The crux of the issue appears to be that UK wanted to move the series back to a rotating neutral site arrangement (likely splitting time between Indianapolis and Louisville, as it did from 1991-2005), while IU insisted on keeping the home-and-home series that had been in effect for the last seven years (and, of course, prior to 1991). If you read the tea leaves, and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart suggests as much, it was John Calipari not “thrilled about going back to Bloomington” that appears to be driving this ridiculous decision. Look — we understand that a national championship coach typically gets what he wants when he wants it, but as Andy Glockner argues very well in this piece, that doesn’t mean that he’s right for wanting it. College basketball loses when rivalries like these end, and this is especially true now that IU under Tom Crean appears to finally be coming back around. Fix it.
  5. What’s this, a MAY version of Luke Winn‘s Power Rankings? That’s right, now that the NBA Draft deadline has passed and we have a better sense of where the top recruits are headed next season, Winn put together a list of 16 teams that mimics the RTC Top 25 (released Tuesday) at the very top, but has some significant differences with respect to where we ranked schools such as Syracuse, Michigan State, and Arizona. As always, you’ll learn quite a few things that you didn’t already know about people, places and things surrounding the game, so make sure to check it out before you head into the weekend.
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As NBA Draft Deadline Passes, A Reminder of NBA/NCAA Rules Discrepancies

Posted by EJacoby on April 30th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

The NBA’s deadline for players to enter the 2012 NBA Draft passed over the weekend, with the biggest news coming from North Texas that star big man Tony Mitchell is returning to school. Why the minimal buzz about the deadline? It’s because the NCAA’s own deadline had already passed back on April 10, the date by which players had to withdraw from draft consideration if they had previously declared but wanted to retain college eligibility. It’s a confusing rule that’s just one of many areas of discrepancy between the NBA and NCAA as far as eligibility is concerned. For two associations that depend on each other so much, they often act more like competitors than allies. From the NBA age minimum to NCAA amateurism to the different draft deadlines, there are several areas of contention worth reflecting on.

Tony Mitchell is Staying at North Texas, a Decision He Had to Make Before Sunday's NBA Draft Deadline (AP Photo)

On Friday, NBA Commissioner David Stern appeared on Dan Patrick’s radio show where he mentioned that he’d like the league to adopt an even more restrictive age minimum on incoming players. For Stern, the ‘one-and-done’ format still doesn’t adequately solve the problem of making sure players are prepared enough to contribute immediately to his league. But as we’ve seen over the past 10-plus years, there are plenty of 19- and 20-year-olds that are able to contribute at the NBA level right away, and it wouldn’t be fair to stall their professional earning potential just because NBA general managers want a better read on any and all potential draftees. And that’s the problem; Stern is focused solely on the NBA and has no reason to worry about the college product or its student-athletes. The differing motives between the NBA and NCAA continue to be a potential long-term concern.

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Morning Five: 04.19.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 19th, 2012

  1. The top of the ACC might look a little different next season after C.J. Leslie announced that he would will return for his junior season at North Carolina State. An argument can be made that the return of Leslie, who would have been a borderline first round pick this year, could shift the balance of power in the ACC next season. We will always assume that Duke and North Carolina will be up there too, but both teams lose significant pieces from their teams and frankly Duke overachieved last year. With Leslie returning and a very solid freshman class coming in it does not seem that far-fetched that the Wolfpack could be considered the favorites in the ACC next season, which is something that we have not seen for a very long time.
  2. With most of the top incoming recruits committed the battle for the few remaining top recruits is heated and that certainly is the case for Tony Parker. The 6’9″ 280-pound high school senior has narrowed his list to Duke, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio State, and UCLA. Although reports earlier this week indicated that Parker was headed to UCLA, but Parker’s high school coach denies that anything has been set and will announce his decision on Monday. If Parker is indeed headed to UCLA, it could give the Bruins a legitimate argument for the top class in the country. Of course, it would also lead to plenty of Josh Smith jokes (you can figure those ones out yourself).
  3. For much of the past year we have been keeping an eye on Connecticut‘s 2013 APR ban and their eventual failed appeal. For the most part we ignored the similar plight of Toledo, but now the Rockets will be joining the Huskies on the sideline as they will also be banned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament due to their low APR scores. Obviously Toledo’s absence will be much less noticeable than Connecticut’s (primarily because they probably would not have made it even if they were eligible). Toledo seems to be holding out hope that the NCAA will allow them to count their 2011-12 APR score which would allow them to sneak over the low threshold. UNC-Wilmington appears to be in a similar situation. Since the NCAA did not grant an exemption to Connecticut we are not sure how the NCAA would let them get away with that now.
  4. With Johnny Jones having left to take over at LSU the administration at North Texas has been looking for his replacement. However, unlike many schools they do not appear to be in a hurry to name his replacement. According to the school’s athletic director they are looking at a variety of potential replacements including a current assistant coach at the school, a few fairly big-name former coaches, and a few other assistants. The school claims that it plans on having made a decision within the next ten days so it should be not too long until they have a coach, but we would not expect anything in the next few days.
  5. Frequent readers of this site are aware that we rarely talk about women’s college basketball and when we do it is for a major issue. This one definitely qualifies. Just a year after she revealed that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Pat Summitt has given up her title as head coach at Tennessee. Summitt will have the title of Head Coach Emeritus that allows her to come to practices and participate in on-campus recruiting, but the team’s actual head coach will be Holly Warlick. We are not a women’s college basketball site or we would have probably devoted the next week to posts about Summitt so we will sum it up with this: 1,098 wins, 38 seasons, 18 Final Fours, and 8 National Championships. Greatest women’s college basketball coach ever.
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Morning Five: 04.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 16th, 2012

  1. Even though there were a handful of players who could be considered potential early entry candidates after the April 10 soft deadline and before the April 29 hard deadline most of them were considered sure things to declare for the NBA Draft. Perhaps the most significant of those players who could have been realistically considered as being on the fence was Bradley Beal. On Friday, the Florida freshman ended any speculation as he announced that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft. Beal’s departure adds to the extra space in the once crowded Gator backcourt, but unlike some other individuals there really is no addition by subtraction as the Gator’s will miss Beal’s dynamic mix of talent. As for Beal, expect to see him gone in the first ten picks and more likely in the top five depending on what order teams are drafting in.
  2. The exodus from Storrs continued late last week as Alex Oriakhi announced that he would be transferring to Missouri from the imploding Connecticut program. Oriakhi, who will be able to play immediately next season for Missouri after Connecticut’s 2013 NCAA Tournament ban was upheld, will be part of an entirely different Tiger team than the one that you saw this season as a significant portion of the team graduated while they are bringing in a handful of talented newcomers. Oriakhi should be able to mitigate some of the problems that the Tigers had on the inside last season, but it will be up to Frank Haith to reinvent the team with its new pieces.
  3. With Trent Johnson headed to TCU, the administration at LSU did not waste much time finding his replacement as they hired Johnny Jones, the head coach at North Texas, to replace him. Although Jones was not LSU’s first choice he should appeal to many LSU fans as a former player and two Final Four appearances at the school (one as a player and another as an assistant under Dale Brown). Jones also lead North Texas to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances as a head coach. Jones does inherit a decent LSU team, but he also leaves behind a solid North Texas team including Tony Mitchell, who had stated his intent to come back to North Texas for his sophomore season, but that may change with a new coaching staff to play under next season.
  4. Florida International may not have had much success on the court recently, but they know how to move the needle with their coaching hires. After firing Isiah Thomas, the school has decided to name Richard Pitino as its next head coach. Richard, who is best known as the son of Rick and was acting as an assistant at Louisville, will be taking his first job as a head coach at the age of 29, which might seem young until you consider that his father got his start at the age of 26 at Boston University although that was a very different era. When Isiah left he claimed that the pieces were in place for the next coach to succeed so the onus on Richard now.
  5. It seems like every few months a rumor comes to life about Larry Brown taking over as the head coach at some destination whether it is in the NBA, college, or even high school. The latest rumor, and one that has been picking up a lot of steam, is that Brown might become the next head coach at Southern Methodist. On the surface it seems ludicrous having a Hall of Fame coach, one who has titles at both the NCAA and NBA levels and perhaps more importantly one who will be 72 before the season starts, take over at SMU, a school that lacks any recent basketball success. It is also a school that will be heading to the Big East in 2013. Given Brown’s age and his tendency to have relatively short stays, his coaching staff could be a big story and we have heard several prominent names mentioned as potential assistants. Still we are having a hard time getting our heads wrapped around Brown being the head coach at SMU and the likely media circus that would follow.
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Morning Five: 04.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2012

  1. It was not much of a surprise, but yesterday Thomas Robinson officially put his name into the 2012 NBA Draft. A year after coming off the bench due to the Morris twins starting in front of him Robinson became the second best player in college basketball and should be a top five pick in this year’s draft. Kansas fans might have been hoping to have Robinson return for his senior year, but it would be unrealistic to have him return to school when he could help support his sister with his NBA contract (his family story is well-chronicled so we will not go through it here). Of course, this will inevitably raise another offseason of question as to whether Bill Self can win another Big 12 title without a superstar.
  2. Robinson will be joined in the NBA Draft by another Big 12 big man as Baylor‘s Perry Jones III also declared for the NBA Draft. Unlike Robinson, who to be fair was a highly rated recruit, Jones has failed to live up to the exceedingly high expectations placed on him coming into college. Averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game is pretty solid, but not when you were projected as a top five pick coming into the season. Looking at it from Jones’ perspective, leaving now appears to be the right decision as each year he has stayed in college has hurt his stock to the point that he is almost out of the lottery after being a probable top two pick coming out of high school and a consensus top five pick even after last year’s decent, but uninspired season. Fortunately for NBA GMs he has fallen far enough down the mock drafts that selecting Jones probably won’t cost the GM his job unless that GM does something idiotic like take Jones in the top ten.
  3. Jones’ Baylor teammates may not be in such good shape as the basketball programs (both men and women) are being investigated for impermissible phone calls and text messages that are so far out of bounds that Kelvin Sampson would blush. Some analysts might have been able to foresee some suspicious activity at Baylor given their sudden rise to prominence. In an attempt to save itself from severe NCAA punishment the coaches named have acknowledged their role and have taken self-imposed penalties and the school has done the same with scholarship and recruiting restrictions.  Given the degree of punishment other schools have received in the past we would not be surprised to see the NCAA issue even more stiff sanctions.
  4. Two other slightly smaller, but still significant names also put their names in the NBA Draft. Vanderbilt‘s John Jenkins announced yesterday that he would be entering into the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Jenkins is projected to be a borderline first round pick could be an intriguing target for a NBA team as he is probably the best shooter in this year’s Draft and there are plenty of teams that will be picking at the end of the first round who could use a marksman. Jenkins is not the only junior guard who declared for the NBA Draft yesterday as Oregon State‘s Jared Cunningham did the same. Unlike Jenkins, Cunningham likely will not even get close to the first round and its guaranteed contract as he is projected to be a late second round pick or even undrafted. Still his athleticism and defense should be enough to get a look from several NBA teams and some training camp invitations.
  5. With all of the players declaring for the NBA Draft it is good to hear that at least a few players will be staying in school for at least a few more years (or at least that is what we think). The most prominent and interesting is Trey Burke, who is returning to Michigan after initial reports indicated that he was leaving. Burke’s decision means that the Wolverines could be a top ten team next season. Lehigh‘s C.J. McCollum, who gained notoriety with his performance in the team’s upset win over Duke, will also return to school. Learning from our criticism of how word spread that he might be leaving school early, McCollum, a journalism major, took matters into his own hands and wrote his own column for The Sporting News. Tony Mitchell, the one from North Texas not the one who is leaving Alabama, will also return to school after playing a shortened freshman season while his eligibility was sorted out. Out of the three, Mitchell might be the most intriguing NBA prospect and could wind up being a lottery pick if he has a strong sophomore season.
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Sun Belt Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by CNguon on March 3rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Tournament Preview

Sun Belt Tourney Outlook (by seed)

  1. Middle Tennessee (25-5, 14-2): The heavy favorite to win the tournament, the Blue Raiders have a decent computer profile in case they falter. Still, Kermit Davis won’t want to leave anything to chance.
  2. UALR (15-15, 12-4): The Trojans won the tournament last year out of nowhere. This year, they can’t sneak up on anybody.
  3. Denver (21-8, 11-5): By far the scariest team in the league right now. If you watched them play back in November and December, you probably thought they’d win this league running away. Now, they’re starting to play like that again.
  4. Louisiana (16-14, 10-6): Yes, the ULM loss is ugly, but this team must simply forget about that and move on.
  5. North Texas (16-13, 9-7): The Mean Green are in a different position in the tournament this year as opposed to 2011. Back then, a senior-laden team was on a mission—a mission that fell short in the final seconds thanks to UALR. These young guys are a little more happy-go-lucky, though, which could be to their benefit.
  6. South Alabama (16-11, 8-8): The Jaguars are one of the league’s most surprising teams, finishing .500 despite bringing in an entirely new backcourt. Ronnie Arrow definitely has a major sleeper here.
  7. Western Kentucky (11-18, 7-9): UALR could have a difficult time with WKU in the quarterfinals, especially since the Hilltoppers have nothing to lose and have played well lately.
  8. Florida Atlantic (11-18, 7-9): Despite this season’s disastrous results, four wins in four days are all Mike Jarvis needs to forget all about it.
  9. Arkansas State (12-19, 6-10): The Red Wolves probably aren’t as bad as their record suggests, since they’ve lost a lot of close games and have competed somewhat against the top of the league.
  10. Florida International (8-20, 5-11): In DeJuan Wright’s last stand, maybe his teammates will rally for him.
  11. Troy (10-17, 5-11): The Trojans closed the season with two straight victories. That counts for something.

Reader’s Take


The Year That Was

  • After entering the season in the shadow of East favorite Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee dominated the Sun Belt Conference and ran away with the division.
  • The slumping Owls fell well short of expectations, but Kermit Davis’ team played masterful defense and pounded the ball inside to LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton. This was supposed to be a team with major offensive question marks. And this was supposed to be a program that could never get over the proverbial hump. This season, though, Davis finally elevated the Blue Raiders to the top.

    After Entering The Season In The Shadow Of East Favorite Florida Atlantic, Kermit Davis' Middle Tennessee Crew Dominated the Sun Belt Conference (Getty)

  • No team experienced more turmoil than Western Kentucky, which fired Ken McDonald after a lackluster start. Even with one of the league’s youngest squads, Ken Harper took over and immediately instilled a new confidence in his players. Apparently, he impressed somebody at the top. The school gave Harper the reigns as the full-time head coach after originally tabbing him as an interim replacement. Harper led WKU to three wins in its final four games, including an upset of Middle Tennessee in the season finale.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock lost Sun Belt Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman to graduation, and the 2011-12 season did not begin with much fanfare. UALR struggled through a difficult non-conference schedule and as Denver flew high in November and December, it appeared the reigning Sun Belt tourney champs may fall flat. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The Pioneers used a late surge to finish with 11 conference wins, but UALR edged them for the West title by playing good old-fashioned Steve Shields basketball all winter.
  • We said before the season not to anticipate immediate dominance from Tony Mitchell at North Texas. Again, we couldn’t have been more wrong (that’s a theme here, as you’ve probably noticed). Mitchell averaged a double-double in his first season of collegiate basketball to help keep the Mean Green afloat despite the ineligibility of Chris Jones and Jordan Williams. If Mitchell stays another year, look out.
  • Louisiana-Monroe will not compete in the Sun Belt tourney due to a poor academic rating, but it closed the regular season with one heck of a victory. It’s so significant and shocking, in fact, that it’s worthy of inclusion in this section as a part of the overall landscape of the Sun Belt’s 2011-12 season. It was one of those scores that simply makes you shake your head: ULM 78, Louisiana 60. That happened this weekend. In Lafayette, mind you. And remember, ULM has lost 26 games this season. This is the kind of stuff they make Hollywood movies about. Just consider the storylines: 1) it was a rivalry game 2) Louisiana is one of the league’s better squads 3) ULM’s seniors will never play again and the team cannot compete in the postseason 4) it was on UL’s home floor 5) brothers Steven (ULM) and Darshawn (UL) McClellan were playing against each other 6) ULM won by 18 points and 7) ULM has, um, 26 losses this season! By the way, Steven and Darshawn both scored in double figures. Steven may have won, but Darshawn’s team is playing this weekend, so he’s got bragging rights there.

Tony Mitchell's Outstanding Season Earned Him Player of the Year Honors (Denton Record-Chronicle)

Sun Belt Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Tony Mitchell, North Texas

In some ways, we’re almost hesitant to give this award to a freshman. But Mitchell earned this. He averages a double-double, he’s the best shot-blocker in the league and he changes the game by simply stepping on to the court. Who else in this league can grab 20 rebounds one night, block six shots the next night and then score 30 points the next night? In a league with several terrific stars, Mitchell is an incomparable talent.

Coach of the Year: Kermit Davis, Middle Tennessee

Surprisingly, as much as a slam dunk as this pick may seem, it’s hard to pick against Steve Shields at UALR or Joe Scott at Denver. Still, Davis crafted a team with a lot of new parts into a big winner. He got the most out of Dendy after he transferred from Iowa State and he molded his guards into a really solid unit. In the end, this team played its tail off. It showed.

First-Team All-Conference:

  • D’Andre Williams, UALR, Guard: A quintessential leader, this man was the driving force behind the Trojans’ surprising West title this season. They don’t make them like D’Andre Williams anymore: solid, gritty, defensive-minded and able to make his teammates better in every way.
  • DeJuan Wright, FIU, Guard: The senior may actually be the league’s most underrated player, despite leading the league in scoring. How’s that for bizarre?

    D’Andre Williams (far left), DeJuan Wright, Chris Udofia and LaRon Dendy Rounded Out the Sun Belt First Team

  • Chris Udofia, Denver, Forward: Finally, we got one right—we chose Udofia to break out this season, and he certainly did. But frankly, it wasn’t hard to see this coming. As a sophomore, he simply built on his success as a reserve the year before, and with more consistent playing time he became a stud on both ends of the floor.
  • LaRon Dendy, MTSU, Forward: Chosen by the league as the Player of the Year, Dendy could put a scare into somebody in the NCAA Tournament. He matches up well with any major frontcourt.
  • Tony Mitchell, UNT, Forward: Let’s pray he comes back for another season.
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Checking In On… the Sun Belt Conference

Posted by dnspewak on February 24th, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Surprise, surprise: Middle Tennessee is your East Division champion. Reeling off four straight victories after that lone loss at Denver on national television earlier this month, the Blue Raiders tallied 30 assists in a 94-61 win at Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday night. That’s downright unheard of. They also made 10 three-pointers and allowed 15 players to appear in the game. Kudos to Kermit Davis for sharing the love.

    Kermit Davis and Middle Tennessee Are On The Brink Of Joining The NCAA Tourney Party (AP)

  • It’s official: Ray Harper is no longer an interim head coach at Western Kentucky– he got the full-time gig. The move adds a little stability to an increasingly unstable program in Bowling Green after the rocky tenure of previous head coach Ken McDonald. Harper, who served as an assistant on McDonald’s staff, won two national championships as a head coach in the Division II ranks. His team has responded relatively well to him, despite youth and major adversity.

Power Rankings


  1. Middle Tennessee (25-4, 14-1): With a top-40 RPI and a decent computer profile, the Blue Raiders could actually sneak into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. Kermit Davis certainly won’t want to bank on that, though especially since Middle Tennessee lacks that elusive signature victory. As a biased observer of the Sun Belt, it’s clear this team belongs in the Big Dance. Watch these guys play for 10 minutes and you’ll understand that. Unfortunately, the selection committee needs to be able to quantify success, and a few wins over Loyola Marymount, UCLA, Belmont, and Mississippi won’t get the job done. This is all a pointless debate if the Blue Raiders take care of business in Hot Springs though.
  2. South Alabama (16-10, 8-7): Here come the Jaguars: with six victories in their last seven games, they have locked up the two-seed in the East Division. South Alabama completed a sweep of Florida Atlantic by edging the preseason favorites in overtime on Thursday, a symbolic victory in more ways than one. If you are looking for a trendy upset pick in the Sun Belt Tournament, here’s your team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Sun Belt Conference

Posted by dnspewak on January 28th, 2012

Danny Spewak is the RTC correspondent for Sun Belt Conference. You can find him Twitter @dspewak.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was

  • Now off to the best start in program history, Middle Tennessee has its sights set on more than just a Sun Belt East Division title. Instead, the Blue Raiders have positioned themselves for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, especially if they can win at Vanderbilt in an out-of-conference tilt this weekend. At 20-2, MTSU has not lost in league play yet, and it leads preseason favorite Florida Atlantic by four games in the win column. Joe Lunardi from the vaunted four-letter network has the Blue Raiders in the NCAAs as a #12 seed, so they may actually have a little breathing room if they fail to win the SBC tourney. Of course, this is all moot if they stumble down the stretch in conference play.
  • A lot of teams have beaten Lousiana-Monroe this season — 19, to be exact. But during the Warhawks woeful 2-19 season, no team has come close to what Troy did to them last weekend. The Trojans, never shy to jack up three-pointers under coach Don Maestri, tied an NCAA record by making 11 straight three-pointers in a 91-63 victory. Overall, Troy made 15 threes, and that streak of 11 threes ties marks set by Niagara and Eastern Kentucky in 1997. The statistics get better and better, too. Troy made almost as many threes (15) as twos (15), and Justin Wright tied his career-high with four made treys. And as for the Warhawks? They made a measly six three-pointers.

Power Rankings


  1. Middle Tennessee (20-2, 9-0):  Nothing has changed since our last update two weeks ago. The Blue Raiders, who entered the season as a questionable pick in the East because of offensive concerns, are far and away the best team in the Sun Belt Conference. It’s to the point where Middle Tennessee can no longer judge itself purely by the wins it amasses. Rather, it looks as though this team could beat just about anybody when March rolls around. That’s because the Blue Raiders hound opponents on the defensive end and have the size of a major-conference squad. Bruce Massey has also played terrific basketball on both ends of the floor, as he’s been a catalyst for this team’s 20-2 start.

    Bruce Massey (13) Has Been A Catalyst For Middle Tennessee

  2. Florida Atlantic (9-12, 5-3): With a few close victories over rival FIU and Western Kentucky, the Owls are back on track. Unlike North Texas last season, which fell from preseason consensus favorite to middle-0f-the-pack, FAU actually has a chance to turn this thing around in 2011-12. It’s not dead yet, but it may need to run the table from here on out to have any chance of catching Middle Tennessee. Point  guard Ray Taylor still doesn’t look like the Player of the Year candidate he should be, but he’s starting to play better after a tough start to the season. If he gets his game going, this team could make a late push. Read the rest of this entry »
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