O26 Game of the Week: Hawkeye State Showdown, Harvard-Virginia & SDSU-Cincy…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 17th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Northern Iowa (9-1) vs. Iowa (8-3) – 7:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network, Saturday.

Northern Iowa has a knack for playing in really good basketball games this season. The Panthers upended Stephen F. Austin by two in overtime during last month’s Tip-Off Marathon, ending the Lumberjacks’ 33-game home winning streak; they squandered a big second-half lead against George Mason earlier this month before escaping in overtime; and on Saturday, Ben Jacobson’s group lost its first game in one of the best games of the season, a double-overtime thriller at VCU. So what does UNI have in store this week, bumping up against intrastate foe Iowa in Des Moines? Probably another barnburner.

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

KenPom currently ranks the Hawkeyes and Panthers 29th and 31st overall, respectively, which – on a neutral floor – results in a virtual coin-flip projection. Iowa is one of the nation’s top-30 fastest teams offensively (15.9 seconds per possession), while Northern Iowa is among the 30 slowest (20.4 seconds), yet the Hawkeyes’ strong suit has been its defense thus far this season, while the latter unit has been more offensively proficient. The Panthers, despite their preferred snail’s pace of play, demonstrated an ability to get out and run against VCU, so they should have no problem adjusting if Iowa’s uptempo pace wins out. The Hawkeyes’ most notable strength is its frontcourt, which provides much of the team’s scoring and prevents easy looks on the interior – which might actually suit Northern Iowa just fine, considering the majority of its points come from behind the arc and at the free throw line. This match-up may come down to Jacobson’s guys hitting perimeter shots – they went just 3-of-16 from distance in the game two years ago – and whether Fran McCaffery can get quality production from his backcourt. This should be a really good, really close contest either way.

More to Watch

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VCU’s Win Over Northern Iowa Does Little to Mask Defensive Deficiencies

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 14th, 2014

Sometimes a team, if it has enough overall talent and a few breaks, can win a game in which its major flaws are exposed by an opponent. That’s exactly what happened in VCU’s thrilling double-overtime 93-87 win over an excellent Northern Iowa team on Saturday night in Richmond. Coming in, VCU’s detractors were wondering how the team dubbed Shaka Smart’s best since he took over the Rams program in 2009 could be a mere 5-3 and out of the national rankings already. The answer(s) to that question surfaced early and often against the Panthers; luckily the Rams’, buoyed by an always boisterous home crowd, overcame their nagging issues on the defensive end to win.

Shaka Smart's Rams got a much-needed resume-builder, but defensive issues remain (vcuramnation.com)

Shaka Smart’s Rams got a much-needed resume-builder, but defensive issues remain (vcuramnation.com)

VCU’s HAVOC defense is now a nationwide buzzword, and their pressing style can be utterly infuriating for opponents. But what has caused this Rams team to struggle in the non-conference schedule is the fact that once that press is broken or has been rendered impossible to set up, they’re a subpar half-court defensive team. Coming into the Northern Iowa matchup, the Rams were allowing opponents to shoot nearly 41% from three-point range. For a team that loves to chuck from long-range themselves, that can negate any good three-point shooting night they have. They’re not a whole lot better inside the arc, either, mostly because they take chances with their guard-heavy lineup and don’t have any true rim-protectors on the roster.

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Georgia State Still a Work in Progress Despite High Expectations

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 27th, 2014

Georgia State entered 2014-15 with unusually high expectations and national attention, especially for a Sun Belt program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 14 years. Guards R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow landed on several Top 100 lists, Louisville transfer Kevin Ware was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, and numerous publications tabbed the Panthers as an eventual Cinderella threat. After being blown out by Iowa State in the Tip-Off Marathon and losing to Colorado State, though, those expectations – or at least that attention – may have cooled a bit, replaced instead by slight concerns about what might be missing. While the team’s 83-78 victory over Oakland on Wednesday probably won’t allay those concerns, it did make one thing clear heading into December: the Panthers can win games on talent alone against mid-major competition, but they are still far from a finished product.

Georgia State is still finding itself in 2014-15. (Courtesy: Georgia State Sports Communications)

Georgia State is still finding itself in 2014-15. (Courtesy: Georgia State Sports Communications)

There seemed to be a tacit assumption entering the season that Georgia State’s backcourt would automatically improve with Ware entering the fold, despite the loss of senior point guard Devonta White. The problem with that assumption – though understandable, considering his name recognition and high-major cachet – is that Ware is not a point guard, nor is he ready to be a consistent, impact player. In the loss to Iowa State, the junior scored just four points in 32 minutes and never really asserted himself in any noticeable way on either end of the floor. Wednesday was a much different story, as he poured in a season-high 15 points (13 in the second half) and made several big plays late, but he still had several very quiet, very tentative stretches. White, on the other hand, was a relied-upon playmaker who finished his career ranked third in school history in points, assists and steals; he facilitated, scored and was a major reason Ron Hunter’s club was 23rd most efficient offense in basketball last season. Although Harrow (21.4 PPG, 5.2 APG) has been very successful playing on the ball in White’s stead, the departing guard’s sure-handed production has been missed, and will continue to be missed, until Ware finds his place.

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Poll Critiques: Colonial, Conference USA & Summit

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on October 27th, 2014

Over the next few weeks, we’ll examine and critique some of the more intriguing preseason conference polls. Here, we take a look at the good, the bad and the weird coming out of the Colonial, Conference USA and Summit League polls.

Colonial

There are plenty of question marks in the CAA this season. (Christopher Szagola/US Presswire)

There are plenty of question marks in the CAA this season. (Christopher Szagola/US Presswire)

The voters got it right at the top, tabbing Northeastern as the favorite in the CAA, followed by William & Mary and Hofstra. The Huskies are the one unit in this league to add more proven talent than they lost, not only bringing back the vast majority of last year’s roster – including Defensive Player of the Year and rebounding monster Scott Eatherton (15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG) – but also regaining Quincy Ford, who was one among the CAA’s best all-around players before missing most of last year. Still, the recent departure of fourth-leading scorer Demetrius Pollard, combined with the fact that Bill Coen’s club went just 11-21 last season, makes you wonder if Northeastern can actually live up to its top billing. William & Mary also has an argument for the number one spot after finishing third in the standings a year ago and narrowly losing the CAA title game, welcoming back the conference’s best player (Marcus Thornton) and CAA Rookie of the Year (Omar Prewitt). Hofstra is rightfully slotted at third; despite last year’s 10-23 campaign, an influx of talented transfers and recruits, including former Niagara guard Juan’ya Green (16.5 PPG), justifies the anticipated climb.

  1. Northeastern
  2. William & Mary
  3. Hofstra
  4. Drexel
  5. James Madison
  6. College of Charleston
  7. Towson
  8. Delaware
  9. UNCW
  10. Elon

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Morning Five: 10.13.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 13th, 2014

morning5

  1. The hits just keep coming for Providence. After dealing with issues related to injuries, suspensions, and eligibility in the past few years, the Friars will now have to deal with the loss of Rodney Bullock to a knee injury. Bullock injured his knee in practice last week, but the school is still awaiting additional tests to see how long he will be out. You may remember Bullock from his suspension (along with Brandon Austin) a year ago on accusations of sexual assault. Austin transferred to Oregon where he was kicked out after another charge of sexual assault.
  2. Northeastern‘s hopes of rebounding from an atrocious 11-21 record last season took a hit over the weekend when they announced that starting senior guard Demetrius Pollard had left the program. The Huskies had expected to return all the pieces from an admittedly bad team, but that experience gave them the chance to be competitive in the Colonial Athletic Association this year especially with the return of Quincy Ford, who missed much of last season with a back injury. Now they will have to do it without Pollard, who averaged 8.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game last season. Pollard remains enrolled at the school so his future plans remain unclear at this point.
  3. When we heard that Old Dominion had suspended three players indefinitely for an August 30 altercation we immediately assumed that they would all be players for the men’s team. It turns out that only one of the three players (Javonte Douglas) plays for the men’s team as the other two involved (Galaisha Goodhope and Chelisa Painter) are women’s players. According to reports the three got into a fight at a party leading to the subsequent (much-delayed) suspensions. We don’t follow women’s basketball that closely even a program as good historically as Old Dominion (yeah, we’re guessing you probably didn’t know they had a good women’s program), but it appears that the women’s team will be disproportionately affected as Douglas is a junior college transfer while Painter is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder and Goodhope led the team in assists last year. Having said that Douglas is quite talented himself as he was named a second-team junior college All-American and has some ridiculous athleticism (as illustrated by this putback dunk, which is part Vince Carter and part Tom Chambers). All three are appealing their suspensions with Goodhope facing a possible expulsion from the school.
  4. We are just getting used to looking through the 2014-15 schedule, but programs have to plan out their schedules well in advance. One example of this is Indiana, which appears to have already committed to the 2016 Armed Forces Classic in Hawaii. The game is expected to be played at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in advance of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor that led to the involvement of the United States in World War II. The other three teams expected to compete in the two games have not been announced yet. By the time this game rolls around the Hoosiers should be well-acquainted with Hawaii as they will play in the 2015 Maui Invitational.
  5. With many of the top college coaches entering their final years we expect to see an onslaught of biographies or autobiographies with a lot of ghostwriting. One of the books that has the potential to be more interesting comes from Jim Boeheim who is releasing “Bleeding Orange”, which was ghostwritten by Jack McCallum. The reason that we think the book has some potential is that Boeheim has a tendency to speak his mind and unlike many college coaches seems to pay attention to more than just his upcoming opponents. The book does not come out until November 4, but Chris Carlson put together a list of 11 topics in the book that he found interesting. He doesn’t cover the reports about Carmelo Anthony’s grades, but we found the anecdote about Derrick Coleman not wanting to go to the 1987 Final Four because it was during Spring Break and he wanted to visit his grandmother to be particularly amusing.
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20 Questions: Who Are the Winners and Losers of Conference Realignment This Season?

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on October 29th, 2013

seasonpreview-11

While it appears that the realignment carousel in Division I collegiate athletics has come to a halt — at least for now — plenty of college basketball programs will be getting used to new surroundings this season. In all, over 50 schools were affected in the 2013-14 round of realignment, an upheaval that has radically changed the athletic landscape over the past three years. As power conference schools chased the football dollar, the domino effect reverberated throughout the NCAA. Many schools in lower and mid-level leagues changed their associations as the news from president’s and athletic director’s offices cascaded down throughout almost all of the conferences. Realignment has been widely panned by college basketball fans and pundits alike who lament the extinction of great, historic rivalries such as Kansas-Missouri and Syracuse-Georgetown. While that is absolutely true, realignment is not all bad. New, interesting rivalries will now be created such as Duke-Syracuse, Memphis-Louisville (an old rivalry resurrected for at least one year) and Xavier-Butler (a continuation from last year’s Atlantic 10). Undoubtedly, many more new rivalries will emerge over the long term.

realignment europe

Realignment Felt Like This at Times, But It Seems to Have Finally Settled Down

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers of this year’s round of conference realignment.

Winners

The ACC: When word first leaked that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were discussing an exit from the Big East, some people may have thought it was a joke. Alas, it was real and it happened very quickly. ACC commissioner John Swofford successfully raided the Big East yet again, pulling off a 48-hour coup that effectively drove the final nail into the coffin of what we all knew as the Big East. Now the ACC has effectively become the old Big East, a 15-team behemoth that is absolutely loaded at the top. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame join legendary programs Duke and North Carolina, along with a collection of schools that have been historically solid. This year’s ACC will be great, but in the long run the battles at the top of this league will be second to none with the powerhouses sure to be involved. What we saw in the Big East over the last decade should become commonplace in the new-look ACC. It will get even better next season when Louisville replaces ACC founding member Maryland, which will depart for the Big Ten.

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Morning Five: 10.25.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 25th, 2013

morning5

  1. Just one week after saying that Chane Behanan was no longer on the Louisville team and would suspended for a “long time”, Rick Pitino reversed course saying that Behanan should be back “in a short period of time”. The supposed impetus for Pitino’s change of heart is that Behanan “told the truth” regarding whatever he did to get himself kicked off the team a week ago. Like many we expected Behanan to return to the team eventually and most likely before they played Kentucky on December 28 and we don’t know what “a short period of time” means, but the sudden aboutface by Pitino is pretty stunning even by his standards with the first game of the season still a few weeks away.
  2. Like basically everybody else we are baffled by the NCAA’s decision to grant Josh Smith a waiver to play at Georgetown immediately. Surprisingly that might not even be the most confusing transfer case that we have heard of recently as Old Dominion reportedly received a decision from the NCAA regarding a transfer waiver for Trey Freeman, who left Campbell to be closer to his mother, several weeks ago, but is not disclosing the NCAA’s decision. Now we all know that Old Dominion has its issues with the NCAA and the way that it handles eligibility decisions (see Donte Hill), but we have no idea why the school would not disclose the NCAA’s decision one way or the other. If the story that is being published about Freeman’s reasons for transferring are correct, we would be shocked if the NCAA actually turned down Freeman’s waiver given the way that they have been handing out waivers these days. The decision is of particular importance to Old Dominion as Freeman would like be the team’s best player after averaging 14.4 points and 5.8 assists per game last season.
  3. Khadeem Lattin‘s announcement that he was committing to play for Oklahoma might move the needle in Norman and in recruiting circles. To be sure, the addition of a 4-star recruit is a significant one for almost any program. However, to us the bigger topic of discussion is Lattin’s background as he decided to spend his sophomore year in Spain making him the first elite recruit to spend a high school season playing in Europe outside of the professional ranks before returning to Houston to be home-schooled. As you would expect, Lattin’s decision to go overseas was controversial and he likely slipped in the recruiting rankings temporarily as a result, but we will be interested to see how his time in Europe translates to the college game.
  4. Yesterday, the NCAA released the most recent recommendations for proposed rule changes during the 2013-14 season. The headline stories will be about the change in when colleges can begin actively recruiting, but since it doesn’t pertain to basketball or football it probably will not resonate (particularly not here). The one thing that does jump out at us is the proposal to allow student-athletes to be given the highest meal plan available at a school. Now that may seem like a mundane thing especially to our older readers, but with the way that many schools have meal plans that provide money for use at off-campus restaurants as part of their meal plans it seems to suggest that this could be a step towards the cost of attendance measures that many have been advocating for the past few years.
  5. Earlier this week we discussed how Ken Pomeroy was tweaking his rating system to try to make it have better predictive outcomes. It turns out that he is not the only member of the advanced metrics community who has been adjusting his formulas as Dan Hanner announced yesterday morning that he had adjusted his lineup-based prediction model for the upcoming season. The details regarding the adjustments are fairly complex, but they essentially boil down to the following things: simulating a season 10,000 times to give best-case, median-case, and worst-case scenario; predicting variance based on player background; including more player evaluation data (including that of JUCO players and non-top 100 high school recruits; and a few other minor tweaks. We will be interested to see how Hanner’s projections pan out given the unpredictability of projection how many of the incoming recruits will do in their new environments.
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RTC Championship Previews: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by CNguon on March 8th, 2013

CIO header

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

CAA Tournament Matchups/Predictions

Untitled

QUARTERFINALS

#4 George Mason vs. #5Drexel, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. — If you were to tell me last March that Mason and Drexel would meet in the first round of the CAA tournament, I would have said, “Really? What happened? Did four teams become ineligible for the tournament while the Patriots and Dragons underperformed?” And the March 2012 version of me would have been strangely prescient. But this is a heavyweight bout in Round 1, and the winner could certainly take the whole fruit basket. The teams split two regular season matchups, with each road team winning. Mason blew a 20-point first-half lead in its loss, but for the most part, both games came down to the final eight minutes, when the teams traded leads. This one should also go to the wire —and I’ve got Mason barely holding on in a thrilling opener to the weekend.

Pick: George Mason 62, Drexel 61

#2 Delaware vs. #7 Hofstra, Saturday, 6 p.m. — Hofstra, in this writer’s opinion, is the only team of the seven incapable of winning the tournament. Which means that Delaware, which hasn’t reached the semifinals since 2003, should finally make the final four. The Hens have weapons all over the court, while Hofstra counts on the same few players to log big minutes and try to make something happen. There won’t be many blowouts this weekend, but this game has a chance to be over quickly if Delaware shoots the ball well in the first half. Hofstra’s best gameplan is to limit possessions, remain within striking distance, and catch some second-half breaks. The Pride can hang around, but won’t seriously threaten.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Notre Dame/Louisville, Kansas, Creighton and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 12th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian 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. At 10:54 PM on Saturday night, with Louisville up comfortably over Notre Dame late in the second half, I tweeted the following: “This might be the worst Saturday prime time game ever.” Alas, college basketball found another way to make me look stupid. Jerian Grant’s insane final minute lit a fire underneath what was until then quite a boring game. We know what happened in the end. It was one of the more bizarre games I’ve ever seen and turned into an edge of your seat thriller in the blink of an eye. The longest regular season game in Big East history, in addition to being supreme entertainment, taught us some important things about both teams. The most important takeaway for me was how bad Louisville is in late game one possession situations. I wasn’t stunned by Russ Smith’s antics but the fact that Rick Pitino refused to call a timeout not once, not twice but three times when his team could have won the game with a basket absolutely shocked me. This is not the first time Louisville has played poorly down the stretch of a close game. Against Syracuse, the Cardinals folded in the final minute and the Orange took advantage in a big way. Even in a win against Pittsburgh, Louisville didn’t exactly put on a clinic on how to close out a game. This is a pattern of sloppy play and could come back to bite Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. As for Notre Dame, the fight it showed in overtime was sensational. The Irish never quit despite being out-manned up front after foul trouble forced Jack Cooley and reserve big man Tom Knight out of the game. Garrick Sherman made his case for more minutes and could be a valuable player off the bench down the stretch for Mike Brey’s team. Notre Dame isn’t a great team but the Irish proved in the overtime periods that they can hang around the top 25 and win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.

    Rick Pitino's team needs to sure up its play at the end of close games (AP)

    Rick Pitino’s team needs to sure up its play at the end of close games (AP)

  2. The Notre Dame/Louisville game was just one of many fantastic finishes this week. It all got started last Tuesday night with a high level thriller between Ohio State and Michigan that went to overtime. Wisconsin had two crazy finishes, the first a double OT win over Iowa and the second was a fantastic game against Michigan on Saturday highlighted by Ben Brust’s half court heave to force overtime. Oklahoma State and Baylor went to an entertaining OT session while Indiana and Washington lost on buzzer beaters. Illinois had no business winning that game but it just proves how wacky college hoops is this year. I believe Indiana is the best team in the nation but the Hoosiers aren’t head and shoulders ahead of anybody. They’re simply the best of a large group of very good teams. Parity in this sport is at an all time high. I shake my head when I hear someone say the regular season doesn’t matter or they don’t even watch college basketball because the level of play isn’t great. Those people will never get it, although they will get to see a nutty NCAA Tournament if the regular season is any indication. I have never seen such a wide open year than this one. You know who might have had the best week? NCAA referee John Gaffney. He worked Michigan/Ohio State, Illinois/Indiana and then did two games on Saturday, one of which was Notre Dame/Louisville. That’s one heck of a week.
  3. You would be hard pressed to find a team that had a better week than Illinois. The Fighting Illini began the week at 2-7 in Big Ten play, losers in six of their last seven games with games against Indiana and Minnesota coming up. John Groce’s team turned it on at the right time and came away with two huge wins for their NCAA Tournament chances. Even at 4-7 in conference play, Illinois looks to be in the tournament as of now thanks to the two wins last week along with victories over Butler, Gonzaga and Ohio State. It was the D.J. Richardson show against Indiana as he almost singlehandedly brought them back late in the game. Illinois was able to make shots against the Hoosiers and turn them over, resulting in extra possessions. It was a different recipe against Minnesota as Illinois used strong three point shooting and solid defense, the two primary reasons for their January meltdown, to knock off the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. That was in was arguably just as big as Indiana because Illinois needed to get a quality road win in conference. It remains to be seen where the Illini will go from here but they have a great chance to get back to .500 in league play with games against Purdue, Northwestern and Penn State upcoming before a big time showdown with Michigan on February 24. Four of Illinois last six games are on the road so it would be well advised to take care of business over this softer stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Illini Come Up Huge, Wolters Drops 53 Points, and Missouri’s Plight…

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 8th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Stay Away From Number One. My best advice for teams trying to avoid losses: stay out of the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll. Every team should take the floor on a given night with that underlying objective – winning games is a generally good thing, I’d wager – which makes that logic a really interesting counterfactual. The only way to reach the top is by winning games, but if every team to inherit No. 1 dating back to January 7 (when Duke opened up the week at No. 1 for the fourth consecutive week) has gone on to surrender the ranking in the seven days that followed, it begs the question: are teams better off avoiding the coveted weekly AP crown? Of course not. That preamble was, in essence, a roundabout way to introduce you to the latest slain No. 1. On Monday, upon the AP poll’s customary afternoon release, it will be official – especially if Indiana falls at Ohio State Sunday. The Hoosiers were the main storyline from Thursday night, but they weren’t the only one.

Your Watercooler Moment. A Win Illinois Needed.

There is only one way to go about discussing Illinois’ win over No. 1 Indiana Thursday night. It is a season-defining moment. The Illini were fading fast in Big Ten play, descending into NIT territory far quicker than anyone could have imagined after an excellent nonconference season, but as we’ve seen time and again this time of year, one win can change everything. This win – which saw Illinois rip off a 13-2 run with under four minutes remaining after being down by double digits for most of the second half – changes the conversation around Illinois. It brings renewed optimism to a conference season that, up until Thursday night, had done more harm than good to the Illini’s Tournament chances. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, and Illinois will need to improve its still-lacking 3-7 league record. But with a win of this magnitude in your back pocket, Illinois’ view on the rest of the season changes considerably. The final eight regular season games and Big Ten Tournament are no longer about hunting upset wins. The Illini got that Thursday night. From here on out, John Groce’s team needs to handle business against equal-to-inferior competition (Purdue, at Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, at Iowa), watch the bubble soften up around them and sit back as its solid computer figures and stable of marquee wins carry them over the finish line. Those above games aren’t guarantees – such games don’t exist in this year’s Big Ten. But Illinois is more than capable of handling all of them. Few wins will mean more on Selection Sunday than this one; Illinois is back in the discussion, at the very least, and depending on how the at-large picture shakes out over the next month, the Illini could look back to Thursday as the night they sealed their Tournament fate.

Your quick Hits…

  • Wolters Goes For 53. Few mid-to-low major players in today’s college game hold as much national appeal as Wolters. Not to the casual post-Superbowl Hoops crowd; rather, he is something of a college hoops nerd’s cult fascination, for reasons understandable and not. On Thursday night, he did something memorable. Something that will stick with Wolters for the rest of his basketball-playing career. He scored a Division-I season-high 53 points. He converted nine three point shots, and 17 total field goals. He expanded the Wolters legend into a tangible and largely appreciable concept for college hoops fans previously unaware of his brilliance. Wolters is an excellent basketball player, but no one – not even the most ardent Wolters’ supporters – saw this coming.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 2013

CIO header

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Top Storyline

  • Old Dominion Fires Blaine Taylor: After 239 wins in a dozen seasons, Blaine Taylor’s run as Old Dominion head coach finished Tuesday afternoon when athletic director Wood Selig announced that the school’s all-time leader in victories had been released. The decision came a day after Old Dominion lost to George Mason, dropping the Monarchs to a record of 2-20 overall and 0-10 in the CAA (including a 1-12 mark on their home court). Selig said in a press conference that the decision went beyond the team’s on-court performance but would not specify. National media outlets and blogs like Deadspin quickly tried to connect the dots between Taylor’s hazy radio appearance last month and his firing. ODU now turns to longtime assistant Jim Corrigan to steer the Monarchs for the remainder of this woeful season.
Blaine Taylor's firing is a sobering reminder that you never know when a mid-major coach's magic will run out. (Peter Casey/USA Today)

Blaine Taylor’s firing is a sobering reminder that you never know when a mid-major coach’s magic will run out. (Peter Casey/USA Today)

Composing The Perfect All-CAA Team

Around this time last year I thought of a fun column idea and put it to practice. My goal, as written then, was to “create the best roster 1 through 12, using just one player from each CAA team. Your team must consist of exactly three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and three seniors.”

I figured it could be a yearly staple, and a task that fans and other writers could emulate and compare. Then VCU had to go ruin it by leaving the CAA for the Atlantic 10. That left us with just 11 teams, and an imperfect system. That’s no reason to scrap the whole thing, though. For this year’s version, let’s tweak the rules and allow for one of the classes to have just two members. We’re still choosing one player from each CAA squad, so our roster will be 11-deep – still plenty deep enough to do some damage. Coaches typically use an eight- or nine-man rotation, and in this ideal world with an all-star team, they certainly wouldn’t need to be any deeper. But the goal here is to be strong top to bottom, and not just stack the best eight while merely filling the other slots with loose ends.

Below is my roster. Feel free to debate it, challenge it and make one that’s better:

  • Freshman:  R.J. Hunter, guard, Georgia State: Hunter isn’t just the runaway pick for Rookie of the Year in the CAA, he’s becoming a legitimate Player of the Year candidate. He’s fifth in the CAA in scoring (17.3 points per game), and leads all freshman guards in field goal percentage (44.5%). “I’ve seen him do some special things,” pops Ron Hunter said after R.J. scored 38 against Old Dominion on Saturday. “When he gets on a roll, he’s incredible.”
  • Freshman: Andre Nation, guard, James Madison: The ubiquitous 6’5” guard is another player who should earn superlatives outside the rookie realm. Coach Matt Brady said Nation is “as good as a freshman defender as there is in the CAA,” and the truth is that Nation is one of the best defenders in the league, period. He’s also second among freshman in scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game.
  • Freshman: We’ll leave this space blank, under the new rules of the game.
  • Sophomore: Damion Lee, guard, Drexel: The reigning Rookie of the Year has made the leap as a sophomore, and he’s now one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. Just ask George Mason guard Sherrod Wright, a fellow expert in bucket-making. “You can’t give him open looks,” Wright said after Lee scored 29 in a comeback win over the Patriots last week. “Any type of open look, he is going to make.” In terms of NBA potential, Lee ranks up there with Hunter as the top bets in the CAA.

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Morning Five: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2013

morning5

  1. When it was announced that Old Dominion had fired Blaine Taylor yesterday many people immediately wondered whether the team’s 2-20 record this season was bad enough to lead to an in-season firing especially given Taylor’s overall exceptional record at the school. However as David Teel points out the suspicion that Taylor’s history of alcohol abuse and his recent strange behavior makes the firing “equal parts sad, awkward and unusual”. Given his history and the suspicions around it we doubt that you will see many angry columnists firing off their usual columns questioning the goals of college athletics when they fire a coach mid-season. Normally we are indifferent if a fired coach winds up getting another head coaching job and that is true in Taylor’s case too, but if the speculation is true we hope that he is able to get his life back together.
  2. If you have been waiting to hear Dick Vitale to call a Final Four game, it will finally happen this April. For international viewers. Vitale may be a polarizing figures to some, but it has always seemed strange that the face of college basketball to many casual fans has never worked courtside because NBC and CBS have owned the rights to the NCAA Tournament and presumably Vitale has a pretty strong non-compete clause in his contract that other ESPN talents such as Jay Bilas were able to get around. While people have mentioned the possibility of Vitale calling games during the NCAA Tournament for years, this situation probably works out best for all parties: US viewers are given more nuanced commentary while international viewers will be given the most recognizable voice in American sports.
  3. This is probably a case of reading too much into a statement, but Mason Plumlee has (sort of) come out and said that he expects Ryan Kelly to return this season. Actually if you read the statement it sounds more hopeful than anybody, but the fact that this is even news is reflective of how little information Duke has released about Kelly’s injury or how well his rehab is going. While we can understand the lack of desire Duke must have to share any information about Kelly’s condition with fans and the media we have to wonder what effect it is having on Kelly’s potential Draft status. We never consider Kelly to be a potential first round pick even on his best day, but you would think that a fairly athletic 6’11” forward who can hit shots from the perimeter would be someone that NBA teams would be interested in looking at. With the way that Duke is handling Kelly’s medical information we wonder how concerned NBA teams are of the long-term health of his feet. Obviously NBA teams will have their physicians examine Kelly before and after the NBA Draft, but we are guessing that the lack of information is not helping Kelly’s cause.
  4. Two things from Andy Glockner’s Bracket Watch caught our eyes this week: the number of teams that have had bad losses with injuries and the lack of locks. While we tend to think that Glockner might be the East German judge of the bracketologists he certainly has a point about the effect of serious injuries on team’s that have some ugly losses. Although there is no team that fits the 2000 Cincinnati profile there are several prominent teams like Duke and Miami that have had some pretty ugly losses that occurred when they were not at full strength. Assuming the teams are at full strength the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will have quite a bit of work to sort out all of the “bad” losses that occurred while teams were missing significant pieces.
  5. Arkansas’ blowout victory over Florida last night may have been a shock to the tempo-free fans, but while some unsavory characters were busy blaming others for their own ridiculous statements it is worth noting that Ken Pomeroy even suggested the possibility that some like last night could happen even if he didn’t necessarily see it happening for last night’s game. What the game really underscores is the lack of a dominant team this year. This isn’t necessarily a phenomenon limited to this season, but it seems like people forgot about that after how good Kentucky was a last year. When you combine that with some of the other excellent basketball around the country (particularly in the Big Ten) the last two months of the college basketball season promises to be an exciting one.
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