The Other 26: The Mountain West Enters the Spotlight

Posted by IRenko on December 29th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

The action was light during this past holiday week, but the Mountain West’s finest took advantage of the lull to thrust themselves into the spotlight with two exciting contests, a pair of one-point games against top 10 teams decided by last-second blocks. In the final of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, San Diego State fell just short against third-ranked Arizona, losing 68-67 when Xavier Thames’ potential winning shot was blocked by Arizona’s Nick Johnson as time expired. Two days later, New Mexico visited eighth-ranked Cincinnati and emerged with a hard-fought 55-54 victory that was sealed by a last-second block from sophomore Alex Kirk. What was most impressive about these hard-fought contests is how both teams showed that even if you take away some of their key weapons, they are deep and versatile enough to compete.

(Getty Images)

Alex Kirk Led a Tough New Mexico Performance Against Cincinnati (Getty Images)

The Lobos distinguished themselves not just with a victory, but the way they earned it. They are accustomed to racking up points at the free throw line, but reached the charity stripe at only a 20 percent rate, far below their season average and good enough for just six points. But they gritted out the win by patiently moving the ball against Cincy’s high-pressure halfcourt defense to find open shooters and cutters. Junior point guard Kendall Williams turned in a performance befitting of a team leader, stepping up to hit several big three-pointers and finishing the game with a team-high 16 points. But it was Kirk who set the tone with his lunch bucket performance, fearlessly hurling himself into battle against Cincinnati’s imposing frontline and surviving with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, and three blocks, including a game-clinching rejection of a Sean Kilpatrick three-point shot.

The Aztecs, too, can be proud of the fight they showed in Honolulu despite coming up short. Leading scorer Jamaal Franklin was held to just nine points, his lowest output of the season.  But Franklin found other ways to contribute, pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out six assists. And San Diego State found other players to carry the scoring load. Chase Tapley, who had already poured in 46 points in the first two games of the tournament, dropped 19 against Arizona to push his season scoring average to 15.8 PPG. And the Aztecs showed how strong their defense is, holding the Wildcats to 37.3 percent shooting.

This Saturday, UNLV will have a chance to intensify this week’s spotlight on the Mountain West when they travel to North Carolina. In a year when the conference seems as deep as any in the country, the only lingering doubt heading into this past week was whether they had the heavyweights to compete with the nation’s best teams. But as the final week of non-conference play comes to a close, the conference’s top teams are leaving little doubt that they can.

Top Ten Rankings

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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 27th, 2012

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Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • Indiana State Raises Profile: There have been a lot of question marks surrounding Indiana State and how good the Sycamores might be this season. It is possible those questions have been answered after a couple of important overtime wins over power conference teams in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. First, they knocked off Mississippi and then after losing to San Diego State, knocked off Miami (FL) in the third-place game. Jake Odum came up big in both of those wins. After battling foot injuries all of last season that kept him from performing at the same level as his freshman year, the junior hit several free throws down the stretch in overtime against Ole Miss and then hit the game-winner against the Hurricanes. The Sycamores might have gained enough momentum out in Hawaii to throw them into the MVC conversation heading into conference play.
  • Josh Jones Hangs It Up: A few weeks ago, Creighton’s Josh Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska. It was later determined he had an atrial flutter and needed an invasive procedure to correct it. There were questions at the time as to whether he could come back from the ailment. Unfortunately, as a result of that successful procedure, it was found that he will have to another medical procedure which will force him to finish his basketball career earlier than expected. Jones has been a fighter throughout his basketball career. It was going to be a tough road ahead for Jones anyway, but he’ll be remembered most for his smile and positive attitude. The only good thing out of this is that Creighton will be able to focus on replacing Jones on the court with the remaining players on the roster. Although Jones will be hard to replace, he will still be with the team cheering them on.
  • The Weak Link In The Conference: I would need to dig back into the record books a little bit, but it has to be a long time since a Missouri Valley Conference school headed into conference play looking for its first win against a Division I team. Missouri State enters MVC play with a 2-10 overall record, but the two wins are against two non-D-I teams: Malone and Philander Smith. The Bears even played on the road at SWAC member Alabama State and lost that game by 12 points. Paul Lusk had the luxury of inheriting a talented team over a season ago, but what has happened since? Injuries have plagued the team, with Jarmar Gulley out before the season began, but also other veteran players like Keith Pickens dealing with injuries. The other problem is that they were already down one scholarship this season because of APR scores. While many may look at Bradley’s downward spiral as a comparison the previous two seasons, this one might be even worse. Eventually, Missouri State has to win a game and I’m sure the other nine teams in the league will not want to be the school that falls to them, as it would be a massive hit to their potential at-large chances.
The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

The Bluejays Will Look To Rally Around Guard Josh Jones, Who Left The Team For Medical Reasons.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (11-1) (1)–The Bluejays took care of business in their non-conference slate with their only blemish coming against Boise State. At this point, that doesn’t look like a bad loss, but yet the questions still hang out there on what might be their best win. Wins over California and Arizona State might look pretty good right now, but it could be the win against Wisconsin that might end up being the key victory for the Bluejays come march. Last season, Gregory Echenique exploded in conference play. After showing signs of dominance down low in the non-conference season, Echenique could be the key to leading Creighton to an MVC regular season championship that has eluded them for the past several years. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: The New A-10 Asserts Itself

Posted by IRenko on December 21st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

When the A-10 added Butler and VCU to its ranks this past offseason, we knew that the two teams would strengthen the now 16-team conference. The two schools, each of which has had recent improbable Final Four runs, were expected to join the ranks of Xavier, Temple, St. Louis, and Dayton, and, along with a resurgent St. Joseph’s, UMass, and LaSalle, make the A-10 the deepest and, arguably, most exciting non-BCS conference in the country. But after the past week, it’s become clear that not only are these two programs going to add depth to the A-10, they may very well conquer it in their first year.

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

By now you know that Butler took down top-ranked Indiana 88-86 in a thrilling overtime win last Saturday. What was most surprising about the win, though, was how Butler did it. It wasn’t their vaunted defense, which gave up 1.13 points per possession to Indiana’s full-throttled attack — the second most this year for the Bulldogs and well above their averages during the Brad Stevens era. Rather, it was Butler’s efficient offense, which registered 1.16 points per possession. Part of that was their three-point shooting (11-24, 48.1%) with Rotnei Clarke leading the way (5-11). We have come to expect that from Butler, which often relies on the three-point shot as a great equalizer. But the more surprising, and perhaps more significant, elements of Butler’s offense were its willingness to attack the basket and its prodigious output on the offensive glass.  Sophomore wing Roosevelt Jones led the attack, often exploiting a favorable matchup against Jordan Hulls, en route to 16 points on 6-10 shooting (no threes). And the Bulldogs rebounded nearly half of their own misses — 48.7%. To some extent, the Bulldogs took advantage of sloppy block-outs by Indiana, but this reflects a season-long strength and a marked shift from the early years of Brad Stevens’ tenure. In Stevens’ first four seasons, Butler never averaged an offensive rebounding percentage of more than 32.8 percent. But last year, the Bulldogs hauled in 35 percent of their misses, and this year, it’s up to 39.4 percent.

As impressive as Butler’s win was, VCU quietly made waves of its own this past week as they pummeled Alabama and Western Kentucky by a combined 51 points. In both games, VCU went for the kill early, jumping out to big leads on the strength of their Havoc defense. The Rams did not allow Alabama to score a field goal until 10:44 had elapsed, en route to a 33-18 halftime lead that they would convert into a 73-54 final score. Alabama finished the game with 18 turnovers — a season high, as it often is for teams facing VCU’s defensive pressure. Four days later, VCU suffered no letdown from its BCS beatdown, whipping on Western Kentucky, one of the Sun Belt’s top teams and last year’s Tournament participant. After jumping out to 15-3 lead, the Rams would head into halftime up 42-16, cruising the rest of the way to a 76-44 win.  VCU forced a whopping 32 turnovers, including one on each of Western Kentucky’s first three possessions.

The old Bulldogs may be learning new tricks while the Rams thrive on the tried-and-true, but regardless of how they’re doing it, both teams have vaulted themselves to the top of A-10 heap.  Don’t take my word for it, ask the computers. Any of them — Butler and VCU are the A-10’s two highest ranking teams in the RPI, Sagarin ratings, and Pomeroy ratings.  The A-10’s mainstays have not distinguished themselves. Temple was routed badly by Duke in its first real competitive game of the year and just lost to Canisius at home by 10 points; Xavier is trying to replace five starters; St. Louis is trying to get their feet under them after losing their coach and then their star point guard to injury; and St. Joe’s, UMass, and Dayton have struggled to find consistency. As a result, there is a good chance that the A-10 will crown a champion it has never crowned before.

On to this week’s Top 10 and more …

Top Ten Rankings

RTC -- TO26 (12.21.12)

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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 18th, 2012

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Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • Realignment May Finally Hit the MVCSince 1995, only the Missouri Valley Conference and the Ivy league have not been affected by conference realignment. That may change soon depending on what happens with the seven catholic schools that are breaking away from the Big East. A lot of overtures to an “All-Catholic” league have been on peoples’ wish lists for some time, but many thought that it could never become a reality. Now with these teams looking to start their own league, they need more members. It seems natural that Creighton would be on that list. A lot of scrambling and rumors have led some to believe that Evansville was also looking to head to the Horizon league. While this speculation has been squashed by both Creighton and Evansville officials, you would have to think that if this new league gets big enough, that the Bluejays would be in the mix. The panic button hasn’t been hit yet, but every school in the Valley should have a backup plan just in case the league loses one or more members.
A thumb injury to Carl Hall reduces the margin of error for Wichita State.

Wichita State’s New Year’s resolution is to get Carl Hall healthy again.

  • Losses to Top Teams–Wichita State lost to Tennessee last week, but it wasn’t until the practice after that game when they lost Carl Hall to a hand injury that will keep him out of action for a month. Hall has been the steady force for the Shockers while they implement a slew of new players into the mix this season. With the Valley grind so close to its arrival, they will need Hall’s presence and leadership to get on the right foot as conference play gets started. Making matters worse, freshman guard Ron Baker will be sidelined for at least six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. Baker isn’t as important a player as Hall, but it leaves a 25 minute-per-game gap that will need to be filled as well. Creighton also lost a key player for an undetermined time with guard Josh Jones. Jones blacked out before a game against Nebraska on December 6. An atrial flutter in his heart has sidelined the Bluejays’ sixth man for at least a month. He will have a procedure performed and could be cleared again at some point, but it is hard to tell whether he will be able to come back or if he even would want to. His energy and smile is infectious and his performance on the court, like an 18-point outburst against UAB earlier this season, will be missed and may raise some questions about Creighton’s depth.  For Illinois State, they make the news in the wrong way with Geoffrey Allen first being suspended from the team and then arrested for selling marijuana.  Although Allen didn’t play much this season, news like this can be a distraction to the team as it moves forward.
  • Surprise of the Non-conference Season–The MVC has been full of surprises this season, including the notion that Bradley and Southern Illinois look ahead of schedule. Bradley’s second year under Geno Ford appears to be on the right track as the Braves have been able to get some nice wins on the road, something that they had trouble doing the past few seasons. If they can win out in the non-conference season, they could look better than some of the other teams that were expected to be ahead of them.  For the Salukis, Barry Hinson put together a schedule that could definitely give a troubled team a big confidence boost. Southern Illinois won’t win any strength of schedule contests, but they have been playing together, winning close games, and even getting some road wins. They both will finish the non-conference season with .500 records or better. The current bottom third of the conference — Indiana State, Drake, and Missouri State — are a bit of a surprise in that they are on the opposite end of things right now. The biggest disappointment has to be Missouri State. The Bears are 0-8 against Division I competition as a result of a lot of injuries. With the road they are going down, they could head into conference play still looking for that first D-I win.

Power Rankings (current record and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

  1. Creighton (10-1) (1)–The Bluejays keep winning and are coming off of a trip to California where they didn’t have the best night of shooting but were still able to come out with a double-figure victory. In all of Creighton’s wins this season, they have had a winning margin by 10 or more points. Doug McDermott continues his spectacular play as of late and has the nation’s best scoring average per 40 minutes over the past two seasons  at 29.3 points per game. He has had back-to-back 30-point games, which is a first for Creighton in more than 20 years. Creighton is 8-1 against power conference teams over the past two seasons. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Looking Back

  • McDermott Looking Like Last Season – If you have been watching any Creighton games this season, it might have seemed that Doug McDermott was starting out a little slowly compared to last season. That may have been expected as more teams have started to regularly double- or even triple-team the All-American. However, it may also have been related to the time he took off in the summer to take a break from hoops more than anything. Over the past three games, McDermott has scored 80 points since the Bluejays’ home loss to Boise State. In the past four games, he has shot 17-of-24 from three-point range, and he is now fifth in the nation in scoring  (22.7 PPG) and shooting 52.3% from the three-point line. Right now his minutes per game are running below last season’s as well. Teams will have to decide to pick their poison against McDermott with his skill set both inside or outside. If he continues this torrid pace, it will be hard to deny him strong consideration for eventual National Player of the Year honors.

There’s no denying that Doug McDermott is in one of his patented grooves.

  • Still Undefeated — Wichita State is still one of only 14 teams in Division I that is still undefeated. Sitting at 9-0, the Shockers are off to their best start in school history. They have never started the season at 10-0, but will have the chance on Thursday night against Tennessee. With all of the holes that Gregg Marshall has had to replace going into this season, it is quite an accomplishment for his team to be off to this great of a start. Whether it is still figuring out the lineup or the depth they are developing, nine players are averaging 14 minutes or more of playing time a game. At the same time, they are dominating opponents with only two games within single digits (VCU & Air Force). Against the rest of their opponents, they have won by an average of 18 points per contest.
  • Who is Next? – Creighton and Wichita State look to be at the top of their games right now. But really, who is next in the MVC pecking order? The rest of the league has been pretty inconsistent so far as we head into the final two weeks of non-conference play. Fortunately for Illinois State, it is sitting at a solid third due to the schedule it has played, putting it at #45 in the RPI. Amazingly enough, Southern Illinois is sitting at fourth with an RPI of #113. Northern Iowa, despite playing in the stacked Battle 4 Atlantis is sitting 7th in the league with an RPI of #182. By going 0-3 in that tournament, it has been a deep hole that the Panthers have had to get out of. As a league, the MVC is the ninth best conference in the nation, just ahead of the West Coast Conference. These next couple of weeks will hopefully separate some teams in the conference and that can lead into momentum entering conference play to help keep the RPI up.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Creighton (9-1) – Since losing to Boise State on November 28, the Bluejays went on a rampage against their past three opponents — St. Joseph’s, Nebraska and Akron — to a win margin of at least 16 points or more. It has started with the play on the defensive side of things limiting opponents from getting open looks from three as well as hedging off ball screens a lot better. We all know about McDermott, but Grant Gibbs and Austin Chatman have been distributing and holding onto the ball efficiently. Gibbs has had 27 assists and one turnover and Chatman with 13 assists and 4 turnovers during this three game stretch. Gibbs for the season has a ridiculous 7.3/1 assist turnover ratio for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Burning Question: Who is the Conference’s Best Team?

Posted by mlemaire on December 11th, 2012

We admit it. We blatantly stole this topic idea from our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite but hopefully they’ll view this as somewhat of an homage to their creative topic ideas rather than lazy theft. Anyway, the season is more than a month old and there is a logjam near the top the Big East conference standings. Cincinnati and Syracuse are the last unbeaten teams, but are they truly the best?

 

Mike Lemaire: While I recognize that Cincinnati and Syracuse are the last two unbeaten teams in the conference, I still find myself gravitating to Louisville when I think of the conference’s best teams. The Bearcats have played almost nobody of note (does a buzzer-beating win over Alabama count?) and while the Orange throttled a solid San Diego State squad in the season opener, I wonder whether all of that young depth will hold up as the schedule gets more difficult and players start to wear down. Pittsburgh’s depth and incredibly efficient offense make them an excellent team, but their best win is against Lehigh and with the exception of the game against Michigan, their non-conference schedule has been embarrassingly easy (No. 257 in the country, according to KenPom). I recognize that Georgetown’s only loss was to the best team in the country and that Notre Dame has been excellent since losing to Saint Joseph’s, but the Hoyas’ offense is a mess and the Fighting Irish don’t play defense the same way that the Orange and Cardinals do.

Russ Smith Has Been Superb This Season (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

Meanwhile, Louisville boasts the nation’s most efficient defense, a top-25 offense in terms of efficiency, and its only loss came against Duke, who has been soundly beating everyone, and they were playing without defensive star Gorgui Dieng. Of course it hurts the Cardinals’ case that one of the best defensive players in the country will miss some time, but coach Rick Pitino expects him back before the new year, and a broken wrist, while probably painful, is not nearly as bad as an ACL or another knee injury. Even without Dieng, the Cardinals have depth on par with Syracuse and their bench is far more battle-tested. If mercurial scoring guard Russ Smith comes back to earth a little, Pitino’s offense might see a bit of a backslide, but until the Orange can sustain their success against better opponents, the Cardinals remain the class of the Big East.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Indiana, Georgetown, Duke and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 27th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. I was extremely lucky to be sitting courtside for the first truly great game of this young college basketball season last Tuesday night in Brooklyn where Indiana defeated Georgetown in overtime to win the Legends Classic. IU head coach Tom Crean called it an “epic November battle” and boy, was it ever. The level of play displayed by both teams was incredible for this early in the season, something media row couldn’t stop buzzing about. It was as well-played a game I have seen in quite some time and the atmosphere in the building made it all the more special. Most folks thought we’d be seeing Indiana against UCLA in the championship game but it’s funny how fate works out. The Hoyas proved to be a much better opponent than UCLA and gave IU all it could handle. I’ll give you some of my thoughts on each of the four Legends Classic teams, starting with Indiana: You could call me a skeptic because I didn’t have Indiana pegged as a sure-fire Final Four team but the Hoosiers proved they’ll be in the thick of it come March. Indiana’s offensive attack is second-to-none in college basketball and I love the balance this team has. Jordan Hulls is as pure of a shooter as you’ll find but his leadership and defensive improvement are two things that can take Indiana to the next level. Hulls was all over the floor on both ends and Indiana’s best player in the two games at the Barclays Center. Crean has so many weapons to choose from including Hulls, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and more. Oladipo’s athleticism is terrific while Zeller is Mr. Steady. Even Will Sheehey adds a spark off the bench with his leadership and intensity. Where does IU have to improve? Two areas stood out to me.

    Georgetown Players Had No Reason to Hang Their Heads (Washington Post)

    One, Zeller needs to get more touches. Part of that comes from him needing to work harder for position and demand the ball but it wouldn’t hurt if Indiana’s guards looked to him some more. Second is tightening up their defense. The Hoosiers showed a zone for a large part of the game and Georgetown took advantage with spectacular ball movement. Indiana is a better defensive team this year but it’ll have to tighten that up some more in order to win a national championship. I was overwhelmed by Georgetown’s ability to move the ball and get good shots. This shouldn’t be a surprise given past Hoyas teams but this may be John Thompson III’s best unit not in terms of talent but in terms of basketball IQ. The Hoyas probed Indiana’s defense with precision and overcame a talent disadvantage to the point of almost knocking off the top team in the land. Markel Starks is the most improved Hoya but Otto Porter is their undisputed leader and star player. Porter worked the high post all night against IU’s zone to rave reviews and was a strong presence on defense as well. Even in a loss, Georgetown established itself as a Big East contender. UCLA and Georgia rounded out the Legends Classic. The Bruins are an absolute mess defensively and the lack of hustle and intensity is a major red flag. Shabazz Muhammad made his debut and scored a lot of points but didn’t “wow” anyone. Kyle Anderson seems lost offensively and isn’t having the impact many thought he would. Jordan Adams looks like a future star but this team needs to start defending and playing with a purpose if it has any intention of saving Ben Howland’s job. Things are not pretty in Westwood, especially after Sunday night’s stunning collapse and defeat at the hands of Cal Poly. As for Georgia, it was clearly the worst of the teams in this event. That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs are a terrible team but I would be surprised to see them in NCAA contention. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a very good scorer but his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t think Georgia is as bad as early losses to Southern Miss and Youngstown State would seem to indicate but I don’t see this team winning more than seven or eight games in the SEC. They do play hard and didn’t back down against two blue-blood opponents.

  2. Two of the 10,000+ people in the seats at the Barclays Center last Tuesday night were Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, two Indiana freshmen currently serving out a nine game NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits. Both players lost their appeal to have the suspension shortened and will not be eligible until Indiana’s game against Butler on December 15. This all stems from $6,000 to $8,000 in impermissible benefits received via Indiana Elite AAU coach Mark Adams, an individual deemed an Indiana donor because of a total of $185 in donations he gave to the university over 20 years ago, ironically before either of these two players was born. On this surface this seems like a severe miscarriage of justice, especially in light of Shabazz Muhammad’s outcome after a shady recruitment. Muhammad only had to sit out three games for UCLA while Mosquera-Perea, a four-star forward who is expected to contribute off the bench for IU, and Jurkin, a 7’0” center, have to sit out nine games (roughly 29% of Indiana’s regular season). Maybe it is. But look a little deeper and the situation gets murkier. Adams has a VERY close relationship with Indiana, so much so that the NCAA deemed it “unique access and continuous involvement.” As a result, Indiana has suspended its relationship with Adams until next July. Adams lived with Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin in Bloomington on multiple occasions according to published reports and has been involved with some former Indiana basketball players as well. Benefits provided to the players include, among other things, plane tickets, housing, a laptop and a cell phone according to a report in USA Today. It’s hard to make a decision when you look at the facts of the case but my hunch is the NCAA has more on these two players that it isn’t willing to make public. If that’s the case, it’s a shame. Transparency is not the NCAA’s forte and further feeds the criticism of the organization. The bottom line, from my perspective, is that I believe a suspension is warranted. Should that suspension be nine games based on the available facts? I don’t think so. Something more along the lines of what Muhammad received seems appropriate in this case. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 11.23.12 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 23rd, 2012

  1. Mike DeCourcy at Sporting News asked yesterday why Cincinnati’s attendance is hovering around 5,700 fans (43% of arena capacity), despite the team’s Top 25 ranking, 4-0 record and charismatic roster. He argues that Mick Cronin’s squad is reminiscent of the 2011 Pittsburgh team that went 15-3 in possibly the deepest Big East ever. So what’s separates Cincinnati from those Big East Champions? An appreciable home-court advantage, says Decourcy. The Panthers succeeded that year “in no small part due to their 8-1 home league mark fueled by ferocious crowds that consistently threatened the Petersen Center’s 12,500-seat capacity.” Mick Cronin contends that continuing to win is the only way to woo Cincinnati’s pro-sports-minded fans, who tend to show up for the biggest names on the schedule. “Which comes first, though? The home-court success or the home-court advantage?” asks Decourcy. “Honestly, not a lot of quality teams ever have to confront that question.”
  2. In his post on Louisville’s plodding 51-46 victory over Northern Iowa in their Battle 4 Atlantis opener last night, Eric Crawford of local affiliate WDRB restates that UofL’s offense needs to wean itself off the three-point shot. Heading into its contest with a prolific Missouri offense, 43% of Louisville’s shots this season have been lobbed from beyond the arc. Louisville has only connected on 29.4% of the more than 27 threes they attempt each game, on average. That irrational shot distribution makes it impossible for Louisville to score with any efficiency on a regular basis. “This is a team that ought to be able to throw lobs off penetration, or to drive in for mid-range looks. It ought to be able to enter the ball to the post from the wing, rather than from a guard who drives and dishes from two feet away, where the defense can easily collapse.” Crawford also cautions that the fruits of Louisville’s full court press have become a crutch that the Cards won’t always be able to depend on. “This team is scoring a remarkable 37.6 percent (109 out of 290) off of turnovers. And that’s fine, if you can keep causing them. But eventually somebody is going to take better care of the ball.” Phil Pressey’s Missouri team could be the first to force UofL to rely on half court offense.
  3. The folks at Pittsburgh blog Cardiac Hill write that the Panthers 67-62 loss to #4 Michigan “proved that there’s still a good bit of work to do” before Pitt fans can consider their team elite. Watching Pitt hang with the favored Wolverines down to the wire was apparently more frustrating than encouraging for fans who knew enough to expect more from Steven Adams and Tray Woodall. The heralded freshman Kiwi in particular continued a weeklong trend of decreasing minutes and productivity: “He was scoreless, but even more importantly, just didn’t look like he belonged.” At least the Panthers didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as they’ll regroup against Delaware today.
  4. Some reporter had the misfortune of asking Jim Boeheim about realignment. Spoiler alert: he’s kind of ambivalent. “Everybody knows the story. They’re going for whatever they’re going for. The rivalries don’t matter to anybody anymore. I think if you ask somebody at West Virginia right now, their fans, if they like going out to Texas Tech and Texas A&M[?] and all those places. Ask their fans if they really like that? Maybe they do. I don’t know. I don’t get it, never have got it. But that’s just the way it’s going and nothing you can do about it. It’s like I said, if these guys were running the United States in Colonial times, Brazil and Argentina would be states because they have something we need. It would make a great country” (brackets added).
  5. The Providence Journal published an article the other day about the possibility of the Big East basketball schools voting to dissolve the conference. Last night, Brian Ewart at VU Hoops posted a critique that sought to distill the report’s concrete facts, and arrived at the conclusion that dissolution––even after losing another all-sports member to the ACC––remains very unlikely. The two-thirds majority would require unanimous consensus in favor of dissolving among all the basketball schools, and Georgetown and St. John’s allegedly strongly oppose league suicide. On a pragmatic level, pulling the plug on the Big East would deprive the basketball schools of hundreds of thousands of dollars (potentially much more, depending on current media negotiations) in television revenue. Any move to unilaterally dissolve before the eight new members officially join could expose each of the Catholic basketball schools to a mind-numbing amount of litigation, as each of those new members are in various stages of cutting prior conference affiliations.
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Big East M5: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on November 22nd, 2012

  1. Happy Turkey Day. What better way to escape the more unsavory members of your extended family and digest a few grams of sodium than by parking it in front of the tube for 10 or so hours of college hoops? The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas has you covered, and Run The Floor compiled a very thorough primer to the event. Top-seeded Louisville takes the floor in the evening against a very prolific Northern Iowa offense that averages 1.25 points per possession and shoots 51.5% from the field, ranking them at the top of the field in both categories. Although the Panthers are 3-0, they’ve played dubious defense against a very weak schedule, spotting 81 points on 45% shooting at home to a 1-3 Toledo team that averages 62 PPG. It will be an interesting opportunity to determine if Louisville can generate enough offense outside of its transition game to overcome the most highly efficient shooting team they’ve encountered. It could also give fans some idea of what to expect in a future Louisville-Missouri or Louisville-Duke match-up later in the weekend.
  2. This is subject to change, with several of the national leaders playing after the M5 was filed last night, but Nick Coffey at Louisville blog The Cardinal Connect points out that Peyton Siva is quietly leading the nation in assists per game. Siva’s nine dimes per contest is likely to taper as the Cardinals’ competition steps up, although it’s plausible he could continue producing at that level after he sustained a 6.0 APG through the last postseason against elite competition. It’s interesting to note that four of the nation’s top 10 assist leaders come from the Big East, with Anthony Collins (#4, 8.2 APG), Michael Carter-Williams (#8, 7.5 APG), and Tray Woodall (#10, 7.0 APG) all joining the Cardinals’ point guard (according to StatSheet.com).
  3. Despite ultimately falling to Indiana in overtime of the Legends Classic championship game on Tuesday night, Georgetown’s performance in the Barclay Center this week earned them the adoration of pundits and almost assuredly a spot in the upcoming Top 25 polls. Hoya fans who had scoffed at the Shabazz-centric national coverage of Georgetown’s upset of UCLA in Brooklyn on Monday night were no doubt assuaged by the rave reviews of Otto Porter and company that circulated among major media outlets yesterday morning. Luke Winn wrote for SI.com that Georgetown had “established itself as a top 20 team,” and called Porter a legitimate first-team All-America candidate who had, on consecutive nights, “outplayed the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft (UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad) and the preseason favorite for the Wooden and Naismith awards ([Tyler] Zeller).” Despite the media praise heaped on Porter following the two complete games he put together in Brooklyn, he was puzzlingly left absent from the All-Tournament Team. Adam Zagoria yesterday pointed out the injustice that Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose squad went 0-2 in New York, earned tournament recognition in his stead.
  4. Villanova’s blowout home loss to Columbia on Tuesday agitated a fan base already made anxious by Big East instability and the increasingly obvious importance of football to college athletics. Yesterday, Nova blog VU Hoops posted a history of Villanova athletics, and posed the question of whether the program that Rollie Massimino built can survive within a crumbling conference, without a major football program, and in an era when the national relevance of college hoops is dwindling. Author Brian Ewart presented a bleak outlook: “If that [Big East television] revenue source comes tumbling back to earth due to realignment and the basketball program continues to struggle, will the Wildcats be able to compete at a level that can earn 19 or more nationally-televised games as they have in the past?… Another disappointing season and Jay Wright will be worried about his employment status, but the Wildcats may not have the big time basketball brand or TV-money resources to find a big-time replacement.”
  5. Filed under the truly bizarre and slightly horrifying is the promotional holiday video for Providence athletics, which comes to us courtesy of Friarblog: 

    At first glance, it’s a totally innocuous pitch to sell season tickets. A contemplative Ed Cooley is interrupted from humming Christmas tunes at his desk by a miniaturized Cooley, decked out in Santa gear, who somehow wordlessly reminds him to peer at some hockey highlights through the lens of a paranormal tree ornament. All well and good, nothing to see here. Upon closer examination, some sinister implications bubble to the surface. For example: Is mini-Cooley housed cozily in a snow globe, or is it more of a millennia-old spiritual prison constructed to keep humanity safe from his prehistoric bloodlust, a la The Keep? Cooley is initially dressed in run-of-the-mill coach garb, but when his psychedelic hockey highlight montage subsides, he grins suggestively at us, draped in the Santa outfit of his thimble-sized doppelgänger. What happened to Big-Cooley? Has some interloper summoned his malevolent double, thereby imprisoning Big-Cooley in the snow globe in his place? Can Bryce Cotton save the day? Can Evil-Cooley do something to speed up Vincent Council’s rehab?
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CIO… the Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

Patrick Marshall is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.  You can also find his musings online at White & Blue Review or on Twitter @wildjays.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Wichita State Enjoys Quiet 4-0 Start: Coming into this season, Gregg Marshall had a lot of components to replace with the graduation of five seniors who had significant playing time and scoring. The Shockers have started the season 4-0 (three games in the last five days) including a win at VCU that went down to the wire. However, Marshall wasn’t necessarily happy with his team’s play in its latest game against Howard. They are second in the MVC in scoring defense, giving up 55.2 points a game. The thing about Wichita State will be its schedule — there is a good chance that we may not know how good the Shockers are until their December 13 showdown with Tennessee. Wichita State owns the nation’s best road record since the 2010-11 season. The Shockers are 20-3.
  • Creighton is More Than McDermott: In Creighton’s first game of the season, Doug McDermott scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the win over North Texas. However, against UAB, McDermott got saddled with two fouls early, sat the bench for most of the half and finished the game with only five points. Creighton was down by as many as 10 against the Blazers in the second half but 18 points from Josh Jones and a beast of a game from Gregory Echenique with 13 points and 16 rebounds pushed the Bluejays to a 17-point victory. So while teams will try to stop McDermott, there is a lot more to the Bluejay offense than him.
  • Surprise Starts, Conference Record in Non-Conference Play: Heading into this week, there are six Valley teams still undefeated. Creighton, Illinois State, Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Bradley, and Southern Illinois are all sitting with perfect records. As a whole the MVC is 24-5 in non-conference play. Three of those losses have come against Top 25 opponents: Notre Dame (Evansville), UCLA (Indiana State)  and San Diego State (Missouri State). At the same time however, five of the conference’s wins have come against non Division-I competition. The MVC cannot let opportunities against top opponents slip through their fingers. This upcoming weekend of holiday tournaments will be a great opportunity for the MVC to continue to rise its RPI stock.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 7th, 2012

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @wildjays.

Top Storylines

  • MVC Untouched — The Missouri Valley Conference has so far survived the first few rounds of changes among the top 15 conferences in Division I basketball (the Ivy being the other one). While every major conference, and some others even further down have been expanding or shifting, the MVC has walked away unscathed and still completely intact. That doesn’t mean there have not been rumors about teams leaving the conference at some point. The latest such mention was late this summer whenthere was a report that Evansville was on the verge of heading to the Horizon League. While some of that was theory based on some relatively weak facts, there are still cards likely to be played on that matter at some point. The question is when it will happen and who will be the first to start the falling dominoes within the league. It may turn out to be a school like Evansville that is looking to get out of the shadow of the other bigger players in the Valley.
  • Can Doug McDermott have an even better season? — Creighton fans are salivating to see what McDermott can do to follow up last season, when he earned first-team All-America honors, averaged almost 23 points a game, and shot an amazing percentage behind the arc while frustrating opponents down low.  The encore may not be so much about increasing his scoring like he did from his freshman to sophomore year, but about how far he can lead the Bluejays come March. McDermott spent the summer at the Amare Stoudamire and LeBron James skills camps, but he also took some time off after almost playing two years without a break including a stint with the Team USA U-19 squad.  With so many expectations on his shoulders, it will be interesting to see if he continues to take everything in stride or listen to the whispers of the NBA and focuses on those areas of his game most likely to take him to the next level.  For the MVC as a whole, the fans probably hope for both. 

Doug McDermott Gives The MVC Something It Hasn’t Had In Many Years: A Bona Fide National POY Candidate.

  • Big Men Instead of Guards—For many years, the Valley has been known as a guard’s league with not as many big-bodied frontcourt players leading the way.  Things have changed at least for the teams at the top. Along with McDermott, the Bluejays boast big man Gregory Echenique, who while topping over 300 pounds when he came to Creighton over three seasons ago, is now down to 260 and very agile. Jackie Carmichael from Illinois State impressed many at the camps he attended this summer after coming up big at the end of the season for the Redbirds. Colt Ryan, though he could be considered a guard, is more of a forward, but he can score in bunches for Evansville. Drake returns center Seth Van Deest from a shoulder injury that kept him out all season. Carl Hall will likely try to hold things down with Wichita State bringing in a bunch of new players.  Then you have Seth Tuttle from Northern Iowa who was the MVC Freshman of the Year last season. When you look at the make-up of the MVC going into this season, it is easily dominated by talented frontcourt players. 
  • Deja vu Times Two—Three years ago, Greg McDermott returned to the conference that originally made him a hot commodity and has experienced success by taking Creighton back to the NCAA Tournament.  This time Southern Illinois hopes Barry Hinson has the same success coming back to the conference that he had marginal success with while at Missouri State.  It is rare that a coach returns to the same conference to coach another school, but the MVC must be a special place where two former coaches do so to coach different teams in a short period of time. Unlike McDermott who came to Creighton with a cupboard somewhat full, Hinson has a little more work to do after the struggles SIU has had for the past four seasons.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Creighton (27-4, 15-3)
  2. Northern Iowa (24-7, 14-4)
  3. Illinois State (24-7, 13-5)
  4. Wichita State (23-8, 12-6)
  5. Drake (15-15, 9-9)
  6. Missouri State (15-16, 7-11)
  7. Indiana State (15-15, 6-12)
  8. Evansville (15-16, 6-12)
  9. Bradley (13-18, 5-13)
  10. Southern Illinois (11-20, 3-15)

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RTC Summer School: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Today we start with the MVC.

Patrick Marshall is MVC Correspondant for Rush the Court.  You can find his other musings on Twitter @wildjays and on White & Blue Review. 

Three Summer Storylines

1. Doug McDermott Continues All-American Status. Doug McDermott was named a first team All-American last season.  While the rest of the first team decided to leave school early for NBA riches, McDermott decide to stay in school. He did this to not only improve his game, but also has hopes to take the Creighton Bluejays further into the NCAA Tournament after leading them to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007 and advancing to the Round of 32.  His summer has been spent going to all of the skills camps including the Deron Williams/Amare’ Stoudemire Skills camp as well as the Lebron James Skills Academy, continuing to impress onlookers. With McDermott back, expectations are high in Omaha and many fans fear that if he does have the same kind of year or better that it might be hard for him to hold off on the NBA a second time.

What does All-American Doug McDermott have in mind for an encore in 2012-13?

2. Coaching Changes Welcome Back Familiar Faces. Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery was let go after a tumultuous time in Carbondale during his final four seasons as head coach that saw the program hit rock bottom. To resurrect the Saluki program, MVC coaching veteran Barry Hinson returned to the league to take over the head coaching job. Hinson spent the past four seasons at Kansas in a supporting role as the Director of Basketball Operations. He becomes the second coach in the past three seasons to leave the MVC and come back to coach another team in the league (Greg McDermott is the other). Hinson was let go from Missouri State in 2008 despite being pretty successful, but he couldn’t get his team to the NCAA Tournament.  The question will be whether he can take Southern Illinois back to the postseason.

3. Teams Lose With Transfers. The resurgence of the MVC in 2012 caused a few of the better players in the league to look for greener pastures.  Drake’s Rayvonte Rice decided to leave the Bulldogs and ended up at Illinois, a school where he had hoped for an offer coming out of high school.  There was speculation even before last season that Rice was looking to transfer, but he had tried to dismiss it.  The departure of Rice, an MVC-All Freshman selection two years ago and a second team All-MVC selection last season, puts a dent into Drake’s drive to rise in the league for next season.  On the other end of things, Illinois State’s Nic Moore decided to leave the Redbirds after his All-MVC Freshman season. After an impressive showing at the MVC Tournament and the departure of head coach Tim Jankovich, Moore decided a change was in order.  However, there were not as many teams looking for Moore to join them as he probably expected and eventually followed Jankovich to SMU.  Illinois State was looking to be a contender this season, but again could take a hit due to the transfer of Moore and a coaching change.

Reader’s Take

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